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Unit of mass (kilogram)
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Unit of length (metre)
Unit of mass (kilogram)
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SI brochure, Section 2.1.1.2


The international prototype of the kilogram, an artefact made of platinum-iridium, is kept at the BIPM under the conditions specified by the 1st CGPM in 1889 when it sanctioned the prototype and declared:

    This prototype shall henceforth be considered to be the unit of mass.
The 3rd CGPM (1901), in a declaration intended to end the ambiguity in popular usage concerning the use of the word "weight", confirmed that:
    The kilogram is the unit of mass; it is equal to the mass of the international prototype of the kilogram.

The complete declaration appears here.

It follows that the mass of the international prototype of the kilogram is always 1 kilogram exactly, m(grand K) = 1 kg. However, due to the inevitable accumulation of contaminants on surfaces, the international prototype is subject to reversible surface contamination that approaches 1 µg per year in mass. For this reason, the CIPM declared that, pending further research, the reference mass of the international prototype is that immediately after cleaning and washing by a specified method (PV, 1989, 57, 104-105 and PV, 1990, 58, 95-97). The reference mass thus defined is used to calibrate national standards of platinum-iridium alloy (Metrologia, 1994, 31, 317-336).




Note: For the official text, please refer to the PDF files available at:
  • http://www.bipm.org/utils/common/pdf/si_brochure_8_en.pdf (in English) and
  • http://www.bipm.org/utils/common/pdf/si_brochure_8_fr.pdf (in French).
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