The 11th CGPM (1960, Resolution 12) adopted a series of prefix names and prefix symbols to form the names and symbols of the decimal multiples and submultiples of SI units, ranging from 1012 to 1012. Prefixes for 1015 and 1018 were added by the 12th CGPM (1964, Resolution 8), for 1015 and 1018 by the 15th CGPM (1975, Resolution 10), and for 1021, 1024, 1021 and 1024 by the 19th CGPM (1991, Resolution 4). Table 5 lists all approved prefix names and symbols.
Table 5. SI prefixes
Prefix symbols are printed in roman (upright) type, as are unit symbols, regardless of the type used in the surrounding text, and are attached to unit symbols without a space between the prefix symbol and the unit symbol. With the exception of da (deca), h (hecto), and k (kilo), all multiple prefix symbols are capital (upper case) letters, and all submultiple prefix symbols are lower case letters. All prefix names are printed in lower case letters, except at the beginning of a sentence.
The grouping formed by a prefix symbol attached to a unit symbol constitutes a new inseparable unit symbol (forming a multiple or submultiple of the unit concerned) that can be raised to a positive or negative power and that can be combined with other unit symbols to form compound unit symbols.
||2.3 cm3 = 2.3 (cm)3 = 2.3 (102 m)3 = 2.3 x 106 m3
||1 cm1 = 1 (cm)1 = 1 (102 m)1 = 102 m1 = 100 m1
||1 V/cm = (1 V)/(102 m) = 102 V/m = 100 V/m
||5000 µs1 = 5000 (µs)1 = 5000 (106 s)1 = 5 x 109 s1
Similarly prefix names are also inseparable from the unit names to which they are attached. Thus, for example, millimetre, micropascal, and meganewton are single words.
Compound prefix symbols, that is, prefix symbols formed by the juxtaposition of two or more prefix symbols, are not permitted. This rule also applies to compound prefix names.
Prefix symbols can neither stand alone nor be attached to the number 1, the symbol for the unit one. Similarly, prefix names cannot be attached to the name of the unit one, that is, to the word "one."
Prefix names and symbols are used with a number of non-SI units (see Chapter 4), but they are never used with the units of time: minute, min; hour, h; day, d. However astronomers use milliarcsecond, which they denote mas, and microarcsecond, µas, which they use as units for measuring very small angles.
These SI prefixes refer strictly to powers of 10. They should not be used to indicate powers of 2 (for example, one kilobit represents 1000 bits and not 1024 bits). The IEC has adopted prefixes for binary powers in the international standard IEC 60027-2: 2005, third edition, Letter symbols to be used in electrical technology Part 2: Telecommunications and electronics. The names and symbols for the prefixes corresponding to 210, 220, 230, 240, 250, and 260 are, respectively: kibi, Ki; mebi, Mi; gibi, Gi; tebi, Ti; pebi, Pi; and exbi, Ei. Thus, for example, one kibibyte would be written:
1 KiB = 210 B = 1024 B, where B denotes a byte. Although these prefixes are not part of the SI, they should be used in the field of information technology to avoid the incorrect usage of the SI prefixes.
Examples of the use of prefixes: