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Unit systemSI derived unit
Unit ofElectric charge
Named afterCharles-Augustin de Coulomb
SI base unitsAs
CGS units2997924580 statC
Atomic units6.241509074e×10^18[1]

The coulomb (symbol: C) is the International System of Units (SI) unit of electric charge. Under the 2019 redefinition of the SI base units, which took effect on 20 May 2019,[2] the coulomb is exactly 1/ mol elementary charges. The same number of electrons has the same magnitude but opposite sign of charge, that is, a charge of -1 C.

It is worth noting that as of 2019, it is impossible to realize exactly 1C of charge, since it has been redefined to include a fraction of an integer value, namely 6,241,509,074,460,762,607.776 elementary charges. There is no way to create 0.776 protons or electrons.

Name and notation

The coulomb is named after Charles-Augustin de Coulomb. As with every SI unit named for a person, its symbol starts with an upper case letter (C), but when written in full it follows the rules for capitalisation of a common noun; i.e., "coulomb" becomes capitalised at the beginning of a sentence and in titles, but is otherwise in lower case.[3]


The SI system defines the coulomb in terms of the ampere and second: 1 C = 1 A × 1 s.[4] The 2019 redefinition of the ampere and other SI base units fixed the numerical value of the elementary charge when expressed in coulombs, and therefore fixed the value of the coulomb when expressed as a multiple of the fundamental charge (the numerical values of those quantities are the multiplicative inverses of each other). The ampere is defined by taking the fixed numerical value of the elementary charge e to be coulomb.[5]

Thus, one coulomb is the charge of , where the number is the reciprocal of .[6]

By 1873, the British Association for the Advancement of Science had defined the volt, ohm, and farad, but not the coulomb.[7] In 1881, the International Electrical Congress, now the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), approved the volt as the unit for electromotive force, the ampere as the unit for electric current, and the coulomb as the unit of electric charge.[8] At that time, the volt was defined as the potential difference [i.e., what is nowadays called the "voltage (difference)"] across a conductor when a current of one ampere dissipates one watt of power. The coulomb (later "absolute coulomb" or "abcoulomb" for disambiguation) was part of the EMU system of units. The "international coulomb" based on laboratory specifications for its measurement was introduced by the IEC in 1908. The entire set of "reproducible units" was abandoned in 1948 and the "international coulomb" became the modern Coulomb.[9]

SI prefixes

SI multiples of coulomb (C)
Submultiples Multiples
Value SI symbol Name Value SI symbol Name
10-1 C dC decicoulomb 101 C daC decacoulomb
10-2 C cC centicoulomb 102 C hC hectocoulomb
10-3 C mC millicoulomb 103 C kC kilocoulomb
10-6 C µC microcoulomb 106 C MC megacoulomb
10-9 C nC nanocoulomb 109 C GC gigacoulomb
10-12 C pC picocoulomb 1012 C TC teracoulomb
10-15 C fC femtocoulomb 1015 C PC petacoulomb
10-18 C aC attocoulomb 1018 C EC exacoulomb
10-21 C zC zeptocoulomb 1021 C ZC zettacoulomb
10-24 C yC yoctocoulomb 1024 C YC yottacoulomb
Common multiples are in bold face.

See also Metric prefix.


In everyday terms

  • The charges in static electricity from rubbing materials together are typically a few microcoulombs.[11]
  • The amount of charge that travels through a lightning bolt is typically around 15 C, although for large bolts this can be up to 350 C.[12]
  • The amount of charge that travels through a typical alkaline AA battery from being fully charged to discharged is about 5 kC = 5000 C ? 1400 mA⋅h.[13]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ is the reciprocal of the 2014 CODATA recommended value for the elementary charge in coulomb.
  2. ^ "SI Brochure (2019)" (PDF). SI Brochure. BIPM. p. 127. Retrieved 2019.
  3. ^ "SI Brochure, Appendix 1" (PDF). BIPM. p. 144.
  4. ^ "SI brochure (2019)" (PDF). SI Brochure. BIPM. p. 130. Retrieved 2019.
  5. ^ "SI brochure (2019)" (PDF). SI Brochure. BIPM. p. 132. Retrieved 2019.
  6. ^ "2018 CODATA Value: elementary charge". The NIST Reference on Constants, Units, and Uncertainty. NIST. 20 May 2019. Retrieved .
  7. ^ W. Thomson, et al. (1873) "First report of the Committee for the Selection and Nomenclature of Dynamical and Electrical Units," Report of the 43rd Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (Bradford, September 1873), pp. 222-225. From p. 223: "The "ohm," as represented by the original standard coil, is approximately 109 C.G.S. units of resistance ; the "volt" is approximately 108 C.G.S. units of electromotive force ; and the "farad" is approximately 1/109 of the C.G.S. unit of capacity."
  8. ^ (Anon.) (September 24, 1881) "The Electrical Congress," The Electrician, 7 .
  9. ^ Donald Fenna, A Dictionary of Weights, Measures, and Units, OUP (2002), 51f.
  10. ^ "2018 CODATA Value: Faraday constant". The NIST Reference on Constants, Units, and Uncertainty. NIST. 20 May 2019. Retrieved .
  11. ^ Martin Karl W. Pohl. "Physics: Principles with Applications" (PDF). DESY. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-18.
  12. ^ Hasbrouck, Richard. Mitigating Lightning Hazards Archived 2013-10-05 at the Wayback Machine, Science & Technology Review May 1996. Retrieved on 2009-04-26.
  13. ^ How to do everything with digital photography - David Huss, p. 23, at Google Books, "The capacity range of an AA battery is typically from 1100-2200 mAh."

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