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SI Brochure: The International System of Units (SI) [8th edition, 2006; updated in 2014]
Unit of thermodynamic temperature (kelvin)
SI Brochure, Section 2.1.1.5

    The definition of the unit of thermodynamic temperature was given in substance by the 10th CGPM (1954, Resolution 3) which selected the triple point of water as the fundamental fixed point and assigned to it the temperature 273.16 K, so defining the unit. The 13th CGPM (1967/68, Resolution 3) adopted the name kelvin, symbol K, instead of "degree Kelvin", symbol °K, and defined the unit of thermodynamic temperature as follows (1967/68, Resolution 4):

      The kelvin, unit of thermodynamic temperature, is the fraction 1/273.16 of the thermodynamic temperature of the triple point of water.

    It follows that the thermodynamic temperature of the triple point of water is exactly 273.16 kelvins, Ttpw = 273.16 K.

    At its 2005 meeting the CIPM affirmed that:

      This definition refers to water having the isotopic composition defined exactly by the following amount of substance ratios: 0.000 155 76 mole of 2H per mole of 1H, 0.000 379 9 mole of 17O per mole of 16O, and 0.002 005 2 mole of 18O per mole of 16O.

    Because of the manner in which 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 difference is called the Celsius temperature, symbol t, which is defined by the quantity equation:

    t = TT0.

    The unit of Celsius temperature is the degree Celsius, symbol °C, which is by definition equal in magnitude to the kelvin. A difference or interval of temperature may be expressed in kelvins or in degrees Celsius (13th CGPM, 1967/68, Resolution 3, mentioned above), the numerical value of the temperature difference being the same. However, the numerical value of a Celsius temperature expressed in degrees Celsius is related to the numerical value of the thermodynamic temperature expressed in kelvins by the relation

    t/°C = T/K – 273.15.

    The kelvin and the degree Celsius are also units of the International Temperature Scale of 1990 (ITS-90) adopted by the CIPM in 1989 in its Recommendation 5 (CI-1989).

    back to Contents

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).