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CHAPTER 5
Dimensions & Units

OBJECTIVES
State basic quantities and their respective SI units
State derived quantities and their respective SI units.
Realize the existence and importance of SI, international
system of standard measurements.
State and use dimensions for base quantities
Deduce the correct dimension for a certain derived
quantity and its equation of physics

5.1
5.2
5.3
5.4
5.5
5.6
5.7

Introduction
Physical Quantity
Units
SI Units
Rules for SI units
USCS
Dimensions

Introduction
Rapid increase in global communication and the
development of technology require a universal
measurement system.
The standard currently accepted in most nations is the
international metric system or International System
of units (SI system).
SI units are modification and refinement of earlier
metric system (MKS).
This chapter deals with the physical quantities, SI Units
and the differences between dimensions and units.

Physical Quantities
Measured Quantity

## For instance; length, time, temperature, force,

volume, velocity and so on.
Physical Quantity can be divided into 2 types
Fundamental or Basic
(quantity that cannot be derived from any other quantity)
Derived
(quantity that is derived from the combination of several
basic quantities by mathematical operation.)

## Fundamental Physical Quantity

Physical Quantity

Unit SI

Symbol

Mass

Kilogram, kg

Length

meter, m

Time

second, s

Temperature

Kelvin, K

Electric current

ampere, A

Amount of substance

mol, mole

mol

Luminous intensity

candela, cd

## Derived Physical Quantity

Physical Quantity

Derivation unit

Area

m2

Volume

m3

Velocity

ms-1

Acceleration

ms-2

Force

N or kgms-2

Momentum

kgms-1

Work

J or kgm2s-2

## Example : Derive Quantity

displacement
(meter)
a) velocity
meter per second m s 1

time
(second)
velocity
b) acceleration
time
c) density

m s 2
(second)
s

mass
(kilogram)
-3

kilogram
per
cubic
meter

kg
m

volume
(meter)3

## d) force (mass)(acceleration) (kg)(ms 2 ) kg m s-2 newton, (N)

force
(kg m s-2 )
-1 -2
-2
e) pressure

kg
m
s

N
m
pascal, (Pa)
2
area
(m)

Units
All physical quantities
have units
SI unit
Prefixes are used to
represent larger or
smaller values.

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SI Units
Developed and maintained by the CGPM
(General Conference on Weights and Measures).
Name was set in 1960.
Intended as a basis for world wide standardization.
Currently, the system is complete and used
universally.
New SI system is divided into 3 classes of quantity
units
Base Quantity Units
Supplementary Quantity Units
Derived Quantity Units

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## Base Quantity Units

There are seven Base units in the SI
-

Length
Time
Mass
Electric current
Temperature
Amount Of substance
Luminous intensity

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SI Unit Definitions
Length
1 meter = the distance traveled by light in a vacuum during
1/299 792 458 s (1983).
Time
1 second = duration of 9192 631 770 periods of radiation
corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine
levels of the grounds state of cesium-133 atom (1967).

## The nations primary time

standard is a cesium fountain
atomic clock developed at the
National Institute of Standards
and Technology laboratories in
Boulder, Colorado. The clock
will neither gain nor lose a

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SI Unit Definitions
Temperature
1 Kelvin= 1/273.16 of thermodynamic temperature of the
triple point of water (1967)
Mass
1 kg = mass of a cylinder of platinum-iridium alloy kept
by the international Bureau of Weights and Measures in
France (First 1889-Third 1901)
The National Standard Kilogram
No. 20, an accurate copy of the
International Standard Kilogram
kept at Svres, France, is housed
under a double bell jar in a vault
at the National Institute of

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Supplementary Units
No longer been used since Oct. 1995, both units
moved into the class of derived units

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Derived Units
Formed by combining base, supplementary or
other derived units.
Derived units with special names and symbols
Quantity

SI Unit
Symbol

Name

Base Unit

Frequency

Hz

hertz

s-1

Force

newton

kgms-2

Pressure stress

Pa

pascal

kgm-1s-2

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Derived Units
Derived units with no special units names but
are combinations of base units and units with
special names.
Quantity

Unit

Acceleration

ms-2

Angular acceleration

rads-2

Area

m2

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Rules of Units
Engineers should understand thoroughly and
apply properly the new system.
To apply, we have to follow the rule.
- Units Symbol and Names
- Multiplication and division
- Numbers
- Calculating with SI units

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## Rules of Units & Symbols

Units symbol written in lowercase letters ; m, kg, s, mol..
(exception: the (A, K, Hz, Pa, C) the prefixes, mega (M)
and giga (G)
Symbols named after an individual are capitalized
Eg: newton (N)
Symbols should be used to represent units.
An s is never added to the symbol to denote plural.
Use space between numerical and units symbol. (exception: for
degree, minutes and second for angle and for degree Celsius)

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## Rules of Units & Symbols

The symbols should be used in preference to the unit
name. (10 m not 10 meters or ten meters not 10 m)
Quantities defined by several units which are multiples,
are separated by a dot
Eg: N = kg.m/s2 = kg.m.s-2 d
Physical constants with several digits on either side
should be written with a space between 3 digits rather
than a comma, Eg: 73 569.213 427
In calculations, represent numbers in terms of their
base or derived units by converting all prefixes to
powers of 10

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## Rules of Units & Symbols

Compound prefix should not be used
Eg: ks (kilo-micro-second) should be expressed as ms
(milli- second) since 1 ks = 1 (103)(10-6) s = 1 (10-3) s = 1ms
With exception of base unit kilogram, avoid use of prefix
in the denominator of composite units
Eg: Do not write N/mm but rather kN/m
Also, m/mg should be expressed as Mm/kg

Numerical Calculations
Dimensional Homogeneity
Each term must be expressed in the same units
Eg: s = vt + at2 where s is position in meters (m), t is time
in seconds (s), v is velocity in m/s and a is acceleration in m/s 2
Regardless of how the equation is evaluated, it maintains its
dimensional homogeneity
All the terms of an equation can be replaced by a consistent set
of units, that can be used as a partial check for algebraic
manipulations of an equation

Example
Evaluate each of the following and express with SI
units having an approximate prefix:

## a. (50 mN)(6 GN),

b. 45 MN3/900 Gg

Solution
(a)

50mN 6GN

50 10

30010
300 10

N 610 N
N
1kN 1kN
N 10 N 10 N
9

2
2
2
300k N 300 MN

Solution
(b)

45MN 3 / 900Gg

45 10 N

6
900 10 kg

0.0510 N / kg
1kN
0.0510 N

10 N
0.0510 kN / kg
12

12

50kN 3 / kg

1
kg

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Convert to Si Unit

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## U.S. Customary System (USCS)

Many segments of the U.S industrial
complex regularly use other system.
There are 2 systems of units other than SI
that are commonly used in the United
States
1. U.S Customary System
2. Engineering System

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USCS
USCS units are also called Imperial units. Imperial or
USCS units are gradually being replaced by SI units.

Mass

Unit
slug

Symbol
slug

Length
Time
Force

foot
second
pound

ft
s
lb

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Conversion of Units
In solving problems, all data must be converted to S.I units.
Example 1 : min s
60 s
3 min (3 min)
180 s
1 min
Example 2 : km h-1 m s-1
m
1200 km h 1200 10

-1

1h

3.33 m s 1
3600 s

Example 3 : cm3 m3
2

10
m
3
3

10 cm 10 cm
1 cm

1 10 5 m 3

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Question 1 :
The density of lead is 11. 3 g cm-3 . What is
the value in kilograms per cubic meter ?
Solution :
3
g 1 kg 100 cm
4
3

11.3

1
.
13

10
kg
m
.
3

cm 1000 g 1 m
Question 2 :
How many nanoseconds does it take for light to
travel 1.00 km in vacuum ?
Solution
:
distance

10 3 m
6
3

3
.
33

10
s

3.33

10
ns.
time

8
1
3.00 10 ms
speed

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Dimensions
Objectives
State and use dimensions for base
quantities
Deduce the correct dimension for a certain
derived quantity and its equation of
physics
Use dimensional analysis to check
homogeneity and construct equations.

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## Relate physical quantity to the basic units.

Symbol: M,L,T,K,A
Basic Quantity

Dimension

[mass] or [m]

[length] or [l ]

[time] or [t]

[temperature] or [T]

## [electric current] or [I]

[amount of substance]
or [n]

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Example:
Dimension of mass=[mass]=M
Dimensional equation: [X]=MaLbTc
Dimension for X= a dimension for mass,
b dimension for length and c dimension
for temperature
Dimensionless quantities: The quantities
that do not have dimension. E.g:
coefficient of friction

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## What is the dimension for

a) force, b) work
a) [force] = [mass x acceleration] M

L
2

MLT
T 2

Dimension for force are 1 for mass, 1 for length and 2 for temperature

## b) [work] = [force x displacement]

MLT 2 L ML2T 2
Dimension for work are 1 for mass, 2 for length and 2 for temperature

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## Dimensions for Derived Units

Find for both
derived unit
a) velocity

displacement
time

b) acceleration

velocity
time

LT

LT 1

LT 2
T

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Applications of Dimensions
To determine the dimensions of a
physical quantity.
To check the homogeneity of an
equation
To construct an equation with given
quantities

## To determine the dimension of a physical

quantity
The following procedure is recommended :
Identify all the physical quantities
in the given equation.

## Solve the equation

to get the dimension of
the unknown physical
quantity.

Write the
dimension
of each known
physical quantity

## Example 1 : To determine the dimension of a

physical
quantity.
What are the dimensions of the constants a and b in the
gas equation below ?
p = pressure
a

V=
p 2 V b RT
volume
R
V

= gas
constant
Solution :
T=
temperature
a

.........(i)

V
2

= (ML-1T-2)(L3)2
= ML5T-2

V b .......(ii)

= L3

## To check the homogeneity of

an
equation
The
following
procedure is recommended :
1. Identify all the physical
quantities in the
equation given

4. An equation is homogeneous
if the dimensions on both
sides of the equation
are equal

## 2. Write the dimension of

each known physical
quantity

## 3. Equate the dimensions of

the quantities on both sides
of the equation

## Example 1 : To check the

homogeneity of an equation
Show that v2 = u2 + 2as is homogeneous
Solution :
L.H.S : [v]2 = L2T-2
R.H.S : [u]2 = L2T-2 , [2as] = L2T-2
Both sides of this equation have the same dimension
homogeneous

## Example 2 : To check the

homogeneity of an equation

v = u + at
2

Solution :
L.H.S : [v]2 = L2T-2
R.H.S : [u] = LT-1 , [at] = (LT-2)(T) = LT-1
Dimension of the L.H.S R.H.S
not homogeneous

## Example 3 : To check the homogeneity of

an equation
Show that
Solution :

1 1
1
(n 1)
f
r1 r2

is dimensionally correct.

1
L.H.S : L1
f
R.H.S : n is dimensionless quantity.
1
1
1
1

L
and

L

r
1
r2
Both sides of this equation have the same dimension
homogeneous

## To construct an equation with given

quantities
The following procedure is recommended :
Step 1 : Write general equation that relates all the quantities.
Step 2 : Identify all the dimensionless quantities.
Step 3 : Write the dimension of all the quantities on both
sides of the equation.
Step 4 : Equate the indices of the dimensions on both sides of
the equation.
Step 5 : Determine the value of the indices.
Step 6 : Rewrite the equation with the correct value of indices
for each quantity.

## Example 1 : To construct an equation with given

quantities
Construct an expression for the period, t of a simple
pendulum which shows how t is related to the mass m of the
pendulum bob, the length l of the string and acceleration g
Step 2
due to gravity.
Step 1
Solution :
Let t = k mx ly gz where k is a dimensionless constant ;
x, y, z are unknowns. Dimensions on both sides must be the
same
[t] = [k][m]x[l]y[g]z
Step 3

## Equating the indices of M, L, T on both

sides ;
z = - ,
Step 4
M : x = 0,
Step 5
y= ,
L: y+z=0
x =0
T : -2z = 1
l
0 -
t

k
Period, t = k m l g
or

T = MxLy(LT-2)z
T = MxLy+zT-2z

Step 6