Science 2 min read

After 130 Years, the Definition of the Kilogram is About to Change

Tminaz /

Tminaz /

For over a century, the definition of the kilogram has been based on a rarely seen metal cylinder called Le Grand K. The golf ball-sized chunk of metal is made up of 90 percent platinum and 10 percent iridium, serving as the International Prototype of the Kilogram (IPK).

Last year, metrologists from across the globe convened at the General Conference on Weights and Measures in Versailles, France to cast their vote for the definition of the kilogram to be changed.

Today, in accordance with World Metrology Day, the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (International Bureau of Weights and Measures) will officially replace Le Grand K with a more accurate measurement of the kilogram.

Many may not see the significance of this decision, especially when conducting their day-to-day activities. However, for metrology or the science of measurement, the shift will have a considerable impact on how scientists do their observations.

The Definition of Kilogram

The kilogram is one of the seven fundamental units of measurement forming the Internation System of Unit. The other six include the second for time, meter for length, ampere for electric current, Kelvin for temperature, mole for the amount of substance, and the candela for luminous intensity.

Out of the seven IS units, the kilogram is the only one that has not undergone redefining, making it the only standard of measurement still reliant on physical phenomena. Since 1889, the definition of the kilogram was solely based on the weight of Le Grand K or IPK.

According to the BIPM, redefining the kilogram based on the Planck constant will make it more universal like the rest of the IS units. Doing so will bring the kilogram to its most accurate value, which is 6.626 069… × 10–34.

Terry Quinn, the Emeritus Director of the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM), said in an interview.

“The idea is that by having all the units based on the constants of physics, they are by definition stable and unaltering in the future, and universally accessible everywhere.

The new definition will considerably improve the understanding and elegance of teaching about units. It will open up the way to unlimited improvements in accuracy of measurements, it will improve greatly the accuracy and extend the possibilities of making accurate measurements at very small and very large quantities.”

Read More: Scientists Set To Vote To Change The Definition Of The Kilogram

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Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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