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Essentials of the SI: Base & derived units

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The NIST Reference on Constants, Units and Uncertainty ]

SI Units

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SI base units
The SI is founded on seven SI base units for seven base quantities assumed to be mutually independent, as given in Table 1.

Table 1. SI base units


Base quantity Name Symbol SI base unit meter kilogram second ampere kelvin mole candela m kg s A K mol cd

length mass time electric current thermodynamic temperature amount of substance luminous intensity

For detailed information on the SI base units, see Definitions of the SI base units and their Historical context.

SI derived units
Other quantities, called derived quantities, are defined in terms of the seven base quantities via a system of quantity equations. The SI derived units for these derived quantities are obtained from these equations and the seven SI base units. Examples of such SI derived units are given in Table 2, where it should be noted that the symbol 1 for quantities of dimension 1 such as mass fraction is generally omitted. Derived quantity Name Symbol

Table 2. Examples of SI derived units


SI derived unit area volume speed, velocity square meter cubic meter meter per second m2 m3 m/s

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Essentials of the SI: Base & derived units

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acceleration wave number mass density specific volume current density magnetic field strength amount-of-substance concentration luminance mass fraction

meter per second squared reciprocal meter kilogram per cubic meter cubic meter per kilogram ampere per square meter ampere per meter mole per cubic meter candela per square meter kilogram per kilogram, which may be represented by the number 1

m/s2 m-1 kg/m3 m3/kg A/m2 A/m mol/m3 cd/m2 kg/kg = 1

For ease of understanding and convenience, 22 SI derived units have been given special names and symbols, as shown in Table 3. Expression in terms of Expression other SI in terms of Symbol units SI base units

Derived quantity

Name

Table 3. SI derived units with special names and symbols


SI derived unit plane angle solid angle frequency force pressure, stress energy, work, quantity of heat power, radiant flux electric charge, quantity of electricity electric potential difference, electromotive force radian (a) hertz newton pascal rad Hz N Pa N/m2 Nm mm-1 = 1 (b) m2m-2 = 1 (b) s-1 mkgs-2 m-1kgs-2 m2kgs-2 m2kgs-3 sA

steradian (a) sr (c)

joule

watt

J/s

coulomb

volt

W/A

m2kgs-3A-1

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Essentials of the SI: Base & derived units

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capacitance farad electric ohm resistance electric siemens conductance magnetic flux weber magnetic flux tesla density inductance henry Celsius degree temperature Celsius luminous flux lumen illuminance activity (of a radionuclide) absorbed dose, specific energy (imparted), kerma dose equivalent (d) catalytic activity
(a)

C/V V/A

m-2kg-1s4A2 m2kgs-3A-2 m-2kg-1s3A2 m2kgs-2A-1 kgs-2A-1 m2kgs-2A-2 K m2m-2cd = cd m2m-4cd = m-2cd s-1

S Wb T H C lm lx Bq

A/V Vs Wb/m2 Wb/A cdsr (c) lm/m2 -

lux becquerel

gray

Gy

J/kg

m2s-2

sievert katal

Sv kat

J/kg

m2s-2 s-1mol

The radian and steradian may be used advantageously in expressions for derived units to distinguish between quantities of a different nature but of the same dimension; some examples are given in Table 4. (b) In practice, the symbols rad and sr are used where appropriate, but the derived unit "1" is generally omitted. (c) In photometry, the unit name steradian and the unit symbol sr are usually retained in expressions for derived units. (d) Other quantities expressed in sieverts are ambient dose equivalent, directional dose equivalent, personal dose equivalent, and organ equivalent dose.

For a graphical illustration of how the 22 derived units with special names and symbols given in Table 3 are related to the seven SI base units, see relationships among SI units. Note on degree Celsius. The derived unit in Table 3 with the special name degree Celsius and special symbol C deserves comment. Because of the way temperature scales used to be defined, it remains common practice to express a thermodynamic temperature, symbol T, in terms of its difference from the reference temperature T0 = 273.15 K, the ice point. This temperature difference is called a Celsius temperature, symbol t, and is defined by the quantity equation

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t= T- T0. The unit of Celsius temperature is the degree Celsius, symbol C. The numerical value of a Celsius temperature t expressed in degrees Celsius is given by t/C = T/K - 273.15. It follows from the definition of t that the degree Celsius is equal in magnitude to the kelvin, which in turn implies that the numerical value of a given temperature difference or temperature interval whose value is expressed in the unit degree Celsius (C) is equal to the numerical value of the same difference or interval when its value is expressed in the unit kelvin (K). Thus, temperature differences or temperature intervals may be expressed in either the degree Celsius or the kelvin using the same numerical value. For example, the Celsius temperature difference t and the thermodynamic temperature difference T between the melting point of gallium and the triple point of water may be written as t = 29.7546 C = T = 29.7546 K. The special names and symbols of the 22 SI derived units with special names and symbols given in Table 3 may themselves be included in the names and symbols of other SI derived units, as shown in Table 4. Derived quantity Name Symbol

Table 4. Examples of SI derived units whose names and symbols include SI derived units with special names and symbols
SI derived unit dynamic viscosity moment of force surface tension angular velocity angular acceleration heat flux density, irradiance heat capacity, entropy specific heat capacity, specific entropy specific energy thermal conductivity energy density electric field strength electric charge density pascal second newton meter newton per meter radian per second watt per square meter joule per kelvin joule per kilogram kelvin joule per kilogram watt per meter kelvin joule per cubic meter volt per meter coulomb per cubic meter Pas Nm N/m rad/s W/m2 J/K J/(kgK) J/kg W/(mK) J/m3 V/m C/m3

radian per second squared rad/s2

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Essentials of the SI: Base & derived units

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electric flux density permittivity permeability molar energy molar entropy, molar heat capacity exposure (x and rays) absorbed dose rate radiant intensity radiance

coulomb per square meter farad per meter henry per meter joule per mole joule per mole kelvin coulomb per kilogram gray per second watt per steradian watt per square meter steradian

C/m2 F/m H/m J/mol J/(molK) C/kg Gy/s W/sr W/(m2sr) kat/m3

catalytic (activity) concentration katal per cubic meter

Continue to SI prefixes

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