Charles-Augustin de Coulomb
General information
Unit systemSI
Unit ofelectric charge
Named afterCharles-Augustin de Coulomb
1 C in ...... is equal to ...
   SI base units   As
   CGS units   ≘ 2997924580 statC
   Atomic units   6.241509×1018 e

The coulomb (symbol: C) is the unit of electric charge in the International System of Units (SI).[1][2] It is equal to the electric charge delivered by a 1 ampere current in 1 second and is defined in terms of the elementary charge e, at about 6.241509×1018 e.[2][1]

Name and history

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]

By 1878, the British Association for the Advancement of Science had defined the volt, ohm, and farad, but not the coulomb.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6]


The SI defines the coulomb by taking the value of the elementary charge e to be 1.602176634×10−19 C,[7] but was previously defined in terms of the force between two wires. The coulomb was originally defined, using the latter definition of the ampere, as 1 A × 1 s.[8] 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.

One coulomb is approximately 6241509074460762607.776 e (and is thus not an integer multiple of the elementary charge), where the number is the reciprocal of 1.602176634×10−19 C.[9] The coulomb is exactly

SI prefixes

Main article: Orders of magnitude (charge)

Like other SI units, the coulomb can be modified by adding a prefix that multiplies it by a power of 10.

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
10−27 C rC rontocoulomb 1027 C RC ronnacoulomb
10−30 C qC quectocoulomb 1030 C QC quettacoulomb
Common multiples are in bold face.


In everyday terms

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b "SI Brochure (2019)" (PDF). SI Brochure. BIPM. p. 127. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  2. ^ a b BIPM (20 May 2019). "Mise en pratique for the definition of the ampere in the SI". BIPM. Retrieved 2022-02-18.
  3. ^ "SI Brochure, Appendix 1" (PDF). BIPM. p. 144. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2006-06-18.
  4. ^ 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."
  5. ^ (Anon.) (September 24, 1881) "The Electrical Congress", The Electrician, 7.
  6. ^ Donald Fenna, A Dictionary of Weights, Measures, and Units, OUP (2002), 51f.
  7. ^ "SI brochure (2019)" (PDF). SI Brochure. BIPM. p. 132. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  8. ^ "The NIST Reference on Units, Constants, and Uncertainty".
  9. ^ "2018 CODATA Value: elementary charge". The NIST Reference on Constants, Units, and Uncertainty. NIST. 20 May 2019. Retrieved 2019-05-20.
  10. ^ "2018 CODATA Value: Faraday constant". The NIST Reference on Constants, Units, and Uncertainty. NIST. 20 May 2019. Retrieved 2019-05-20.
  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."