Home Home Astronomy Chemistry Electronics Mathematics Physics Field Trips Home  


Volume explained

Volume is measured in cubic metres (m3) or variations on it using prefixes.

The litre (L) is often used to measure volume. A litre is simply a special name for a cubic decimetre.

1 L = 1 dm3

Hence 1 L ≡ 0.001 m3 (exactly). A cubic centimeter, abbreviated as cc, is used to describe the size of car engines. A cc is exactly the same thing as a mL.

1 mL = 1 cm3 = 1 cc

At room temperature at sea level one litre weighs 1 kg. So at room temperature at sea level:

1 mL = 1 cm3 = 1 cc = 1 g
1 L = 1 dm3 = 1 kg
1,000 L = 1 m3 = 1,000 kg (1 tonne)

Note that the symbol for a litre is a capital L, although a lower case l is sometimes used.


Calculating Volume

Volume of a cube:

length x width x height

Volume of a prism:

Work out which dimension the prism has been extruded through, then:

area of face x length

Volume of a sphere:



Random facts – heart and river flow

The average adult has about 5 L of blood. The human heart pumps roughly 5 L/min, but the actual amount can vary from 4½ to 6½ L/min under ordinary conditions. The maximum cardiac output for normal people is in the range 14-20 L/min, but the heart of an Olympic athlete can pump up to 40 L/min.

The flow of the Amazon River accounts for 20% of the total flow of all the world's rivers, at about 6,600 km3 per year. That's roughly 12.5 billion L/min. That's the equivalent of the cardiac output of one third of the world's population.