# Does a single molecule or atom have a density?

In a science lab I did recently we placed wax candles into two different liquids to see if they would float or sink. In one liquid, the candle floated, and the other one it sunk. We swapped the candles to confirm it was caused by the difference in the density of the candles and the two liquids. We were given a brief amount of homework on this, of which my question orginated.

The homework question that got me thinking (This is not my question, it's what lead up to it) was asking if there was a limit to how small the candle could be made and still behave the same way in each of the liquids. I considered that if there were two or more molecules, the candle would still have density due to there being an amount of space between them, or a density, and thus behave the same way. However, I am unsure if a single molecule or atom would have a density or not, since it is a single particle in space with actual properties.

So, in simplicity, the question is the title. Does a single molecule/atom have a density to it? Why?

• Density is mass per unit volume. Find the mass and density of the atom (or molecule) and you can get the density. Atoms have nucleus and electrons, which give mass to it. Molecules have atoms which give mass to it. Obviously, they have some volume. So both of them can have densities. But as you know, the nucleus consists most of the mass of an atom, the mass distribution is not uniform. The density you get from dividing the total mass by total volume is the average. Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 17:24
• Related, sort of, to your question as regards single molecules: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/65690/…
– user167453
Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 17:30
• You explicitly ask about density of a single molecule, but it seems that you are really interested in "how many molecules does it take for paraffin to have the usual bulk properties of paraffin"? Can you clarify your question? Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 17:54
• @Mitchell That answered the question, and would have been fine as an answer instead of a comment. Thanks for your response. Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 1:42
• @Countto10 That question actually came up in the related questions list, and wasn't quite what I was looking for. Thanks for offering it though. Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 1:42

The vast majority of the mass of an atom (typically about $99.975$%) is in the nucleus, so when we consider the density of some material this is basically the number of nuclei per cubic metre (multiplied by the mass of a single nucleus).