Measure Volume and Area Measure Volume and Area icon

Measure Volume and Area reports the total surface area and enclosed volume of a surface model. To measure individual disconnected blobs within a single surface model, use Measure and Color Blobs instead. These tools compute surface area and enclosed volume from surface triangles rather than analytically.

Note that when a molecular surface is generated, the total analytical solvent-accessible and solvent-excluded areas are automatically reported in the Reply Log, and the values per atom and residue are assigned as attributes named areaSAS and areaSES. See also: Area/Volume from Web

There are several ways to start Measure Volume and Area, a tool in the Surface/Binding Analysis and Volume Data categories (including from the Volume Viewer Tools menu).

The surface of interest should be chosen from the Surface menu. The surface area and enclosed volume are reported in the dialog and written to the Reply Log. Values reflect the physical units of the data, usually Å3 for volume and Å2 for area.

Surfaces are composed of triangles. Anything that changes the positions of the vertices in a surface will change its area and enclosed volume, for example:

Update automatically (on by default) indicates volume and area should be recomputed automatically whenever such a change occurs. Otherwise, a new calculation can be triggered by clicking Update. A current limitation is that changes in molecular surfaces are not detected automatically (the Update button must always be used).


Clipping and hiding are ignored. The volume calculation uses the full surface, even if part of it is hidden by clipping planes or zoning (with Surface Zone or zoning in Volume Viewer).

Surface holes. The volume enclosed by a surface with holes is calculated by assuming each hole has a planar cap. These caps are not displayed or included in the surface area determination. The number of holes is reported, as planar caps may not represent missing data very well. Multiscale Models surfaces should never have holes. Holes in a contour surface from Volume Viewer may occur at the boundary of the data, but by default these will already be covered with planar caps. Such boundary caps will be included in the surface area calculation and will not be reported as holes.

UCSF Computer Graphics Laboratory / March 2008