Victor Meyer’s Method to Determine Molecular Mass

Victor Meyer’s method is a quantitative approach for determining the molecular mass/weight of volatile compounds. The molecular weight of a substance is the average relative weight of one molecule of it as compared (1/12)th of the weight carbon (C-12) taken as 12 amu. Some of the methods that involve the determination of the molecular weight of compounds are:

Victor Meyer’s Method

A known amount of the substance is converted into vapours using this method, and the volume of the vapours produced is collected over water and measured at laboratory temperature and pressure. After converting the volume to NTP, the weight of the same volume of hydrogen is calculated. The molecular weight of a substance is obtained by calculating the vapour density of the substance.

vapor density, molecular weight

Determination of molecular mass by Victor Meyer’s method: Procedure

The apparatus employed in Victor Meyer’s method consists of a tube, also known as Victor Meyer’s tube whose upper end is funnel-shaped, and the lower end is cylindrical bulb-like. The upper end is enclosed by a rubber stopper, the lower end in a heating jacket, and the side tube into a beehive shelf, which is set in a water-filled trough. [Note: The bath liquid in the heating jacket must have a 20-30oC higher boiling point than the substances under study].

Victor Meyer's apparatus
Figure: Victor Meyer’s Apparatus

Hofmann’s bottle is filled with a small amount of the substance, and the liquid from the heating jacket is boiled. Some of the air inside Victor Meyer’s tube is forced out, and it bubbles to the surface. Only if there is no bubbling, a eudiometer tube full of water inverted over the beehive shelf. The rubber stopper is now removed from Hoffman’s bottle, and it is inserted into Victor Meyer’s tube. The volatile compounds in the bottle are transformed to vapours when it reaches the bottom, blowing off the stopper and displacing an equal volume of air from Victor Meyer’s tube.

The displaced air is then collected in a eudiometer tube by downward displacement of water. A eudiometer tube is immersed in a jar full of water, and the pressures are equalised. The parameters like the volume of displaced air, atmospheric pressure, and aqueous tension are noted.

Calculation of molecular mass

Let, the volume of vapours collected over water = V cc

Weight of the substance taken = w g

Temperature of water = T K

Atmospheric pressure = p mmHg

Aqueous tension at T K = f mmHg

Thus, pressure of dry air (P) = (p-f) mmHg

Using the gas equation, the volume is converted to NTP as [Note: P1 = 760 mmHg, T1 = 273 K, V1 =?]

calculation of molecular mass by Victor Meyer's method

Thus, the molecular mass of a substance can be determined via Victor Meyer’s method.
Applications of Victor Meyer’s Method

  • Determination of molecular formula as well as the empirical formula.
  • Determination of vapour density of volatile compounds.
  • Identification of Alcohols

Victor Meyer’s Method Video


Empirical formula

Empirical formula is the simplest form of expressing the elemental composition of a compound.

Molecular Formula

Molecular formula is the actual representation of the elemental composition of the compound.

Can Victor Meyer’s method identify alcohol?

Yes, Victor Meyer’s method is used to identify  Primary (1o), Secondary (2o) and Tertiary(3o) alcohols.

Vapour density

The density of vapour in relation to the density of hydrogen vapour is known as vapour density.


  • General Chemistry-John Russell by McGraw Hill International Editions 3rd edition.
  • Intermediate Chemistry, Inorganic and Physical. Prescott (1965).
  • University General Chemistry-An Introduction to Chemical Science edited by CNR Rao by McMillan Indian Ltd.

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