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Definitions of SI Base Units

Second – Unit of Time

Second SI Unit Symbol Circle Graphic

Symbol: s

The second is defined by taking the fixed numerical value of the cesium frequency ∆νCs, the unperturbed ground-state hyperfine transition frequency of the cesium-133 atom, to be 9,192,631,770 when expressed in the unit Hz, which is equal to s−1.

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 Meter – Unit of Length

Meter SI Symbol Circle Graphic

Symbol: m

The meter is defined by taking the fixed numerical value of the speed of light in vacuum c to be 299,792,458 when expressed in the unit m s−1, where the second is defined in terms of ∆νCs.

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Kilogram – Unit of Mass

Kilogram SI Symbol Circle Graphic

Symbol: kg

The kilogram is defined by taking the fixed numerical value of the Planck constant h to be 6.62607015 ×10−34 when expressed in the unit J s, which is equal to kg m2 s−1, where the meter and the second are defined in terms of c and ∆νCs.

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Ampere – Unit of Electric Current

Ampere SI Symbol Circle Graphic

Symbol: A

The ampere is defined by taking the fixed numerical value of the elementary charge e to be 1.602176634 × 10−19 when expressed in the unit C, which is equal to A s, where the second is defined in terms of ∆νCs.

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Kelvin – Unit of Thermodynamic Temperature

Kelvin SI Symbol Circle Graphic

Symbol: K

The kelvin is defined by taking the fixed numerical value of the Boltzmann constant k to be 1.380 649 ×10−23 when expressed in the unit J K−1, which is equal to kg m2 s−2 K−1, where the kilogram, meter and second are defined in terms of h, c and ∆νCs.

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Mole – Unit of Amount of Substance

Mole SI Symbol Circle Graphic

Symbol: mol

One mole contains exactly 6.02214076 × 1023 elementary entities. This number is the fixed numerical value of the Avogadro constant, NA, when expressed in the unit mol−1 and is called the Avogadro number. The amount of substance, symbol n, of a system is a measure of the number of specified elementary entities. An elementary entity may be an atom, a molecule, an ion, an electron, any other particle or specified group of particles.

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Candela – Unit of Luminous Intensity

Candela SI Symbol Circle Graphic

Symbol: cd

The candela is defined by taking the fixed numerical value of the luminous efficacy of monochromatic radiation of frequency 540 × 1012 Hz, Kcd, to be 683 when expressed in the unit lm W−1, which is equal to cd sr W−1, or cd sr kg−1 m−2 s3, where the kilogram, meter and second are defined in terms of h, c and ∆νCs.

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Meet the Constants

As you can see above, the units in the revised SI are based completely on seven unchanging quantities or “universal constants,” including the speed of light, the amount of electric charge in an electron, and the Planck constant. Learn more about each of these “invariants of nature” and how they come into play in the revised SI.

Created May 29, 2019, Updated June 3, 2019