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SI Brochure: The International System of Units (SI) [8th edition, 2006; updated in 2014]
Actinic action spectrum
SI Brochure, Appendix 3, Section 1

    Optical radiation can be characterized by its spectral power distribution. The mechanisms by which optical radiation is absorbed by chemical or biological systems are usually complicated, and are always wavelength (or frequency) dependent. For metrological purposes, however, the complexities of the absorption mechanisms can be ignored, and the actinic effect is characterized simply by an actinic action spectrum linking the photochemical or the photobiological response to the incident radiation. This actinic action spectrum describes the relative effectiveness of monochromatic optical radiation at wavelength lambda to elicit a given actinic response. It is given in relative values, normalized to 1 for the maximum of efficacy. Usually actinic action spectra are defined and recommended by international scientific or standardizing organizations.

     

    For vision, two action spectra have been defined by the CIE and endorsed by the CIPM: V(lambda) for photopic vision and V'(lambda) for scotopic vision. These are used in the measurement of photometric quantities and are an implicit part of the definition of the SI unit for photometry, the candela. Photopic vision is detected by the cones on the retina of the eye, which are sensitive to a high level of luminance (L > ca. 10 cd m–2) and are used in daytime vision. Scotopic vision is detected by the rods of the retina, which are sensitive to low level luminance (L < ca. 10–3 cd m–2), used in night vision. In the domain between these levels of luminance both cones and rods are used, and this is described as mesopic vision.

    Other action spectra for other actinic effects have also been defined by the CIE, such as the erythemal (skin reddening) action spectrum for ultraviolet radiation, but these have not been given any special status within the SI.

     

We are pleased to present the updated (2014) 8th edition of the SI Brochure, which defines and presents the Système International d'Unités, the SI (known in English as the International System of Units).

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: SI units

Chapter 3: Decimal multiples and submultiples of SI units

  • SI prefixes
  • Factor Name Symbol Factor Name Symbol
    101 deca da 10–1 deci d
    102 hecto h 10–2 centi c
    103 kilo k 10–3 milli m
    106 mega M 10–6 micro µ
    109 giga G 10–9 nano n
    1012 tera T 10–12 pico p
    1015 peta P 10–15 femto f
    1018 exa E 10–18 atto a
    1021 zetta Z 10–21 zepto z
    1024 yotta Y 10–24 yocto y
  • The kilogram

Chapter 4: Units outside the SI

Chapter 5: Writing unit symbols and names, and expressing the values of quantities

General principles for the writing of unit symbols and numbers were first given by the 9th CGPM (1948, Resolution 7). These were subsequently elaborated by ISO, IEC, and other international bodies. As a consequence, there now exists a general consensus on how unit symbols and names, including prefix symbols and names, as well as quantity symbols should be written and used, and how the values of quantities should be expressed. Compliance with these rules and style conventions, the most important of which are presented in this chapter, supports the readability of scientific and technical papers.

Appendix 1: Decisions of the CGPM and the CIPM

This appendix lists those decisions of the CGPM and the CIPM that bear directly upon definitions of the units of the SI, prefixes defined for use as part of the SI, and conventions for the writing of unit symbols and numbers. It is not a complete list of CGPM and CIPM decisions. For a complete list, reference must be made to the BIPM website, successive volumes of the Comptes Rendus des Séances de la Conférence Générale des Poids et Mesures (CR) and Procès-Verbaux des Séances du Comité International des Poids et Mesures (PV) or, for recent decisions, to Metrologia.

Since the SI is not a static convention, but evolves following developments in the science of measurement, some decisions have been abrogated or modified; others have been clarified by additions. In the SI Brochure, a number of notes have been added by the BIPM to make the text more understandable; they do not form part of the original text.

In the printed brochure, the decisions of the CGPM and CIPM are listed in strict chronological order in order to preserve the continuity with which they were taken. However in order to make it easy to locate decisions related to particular topics a table of contents is also provided, ordered by subject:

Appendix 2: Practical realization of the definitions of some important units

Appendix 3: Units for photochemical and photobiological quantities

Optical radiation is able to cause chemical changes in certain living or non-living materials: this property is called actinism, and radiation capable of causing such changes is referred to as actinic radiation. Actinic radiation has the fundamental characteristic that, at the molecular level, one photon interacts with one molecule to alter or break the molecule into new molecular species. It is therefore possible to define specific photochemical or photobiological quantities in terms of the result of optical radiation on the associated chemical or biological receptors.

In the field of metrology, the only photobiological quantity which has been formally defined for measurement in the SI is for the interaction of light with the human eye in vision. An SI base unit, the candela, has been defined for this important photobiological quantity. Several other photometric quantities with units derived from the candela have also been defined (such as the lumen and the lux, see Table 3 in Chapter 2).