A power quantity is a power or a quantity directly proportional to power, e.g., energy density, acoustic intensity, and luminous intensity.[1] Energy quantities may also be labelled as power quantities in this context.[2]

A root-power quantity is a quantity such as voltage, current, sound pressure, electric field strength, speed, or charge density, the square of which, in linear systems, is proportional to power.[3] The term root-power quantity refers to the square root that relates these quantities to power. The term was introduced in ISO 80000-1 § Annex C; it replaces and deprecates the term field quantity.


It is essential to know which category a measurement belongs to when using decibels (dB) for comparing the levels of such quantities. A change of one bel in the level corresponds to a 10× change in power, so when comparing power quantities x and y, the difference is defined to be 10×log10(y/x) decibel. With root-power quantities, however the difference is defined as 20×log10(y/x) dB.[3]

In the analysis of signals and systems using sinusoids, field quantities and root-power quantities may be complex-valued,[4][5][6][disputed ] as in the propagation constant.

"Root-power quantity" vs. "field quantity"

In justifying the deprecation of the term "field quantity" and instead using "root-power quantity" in the context of levels, ISO 80000 draws attention to the conflicting use of the former term to mean a quantity that depends on the position,[7] which in physics is called a field. Such a field is often called a field quantity in the literature,[citation needed] but is called a field here for clarity. Several types of field (such as the electromagnetic field) meet the definition of a root-power quantity, whereas others (such as the Poynting vector and temperature) do not. Conversely, not every root-power quantity is a field (such as the voltage on a loudspeaker).[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Ainslie, Michael A. (Winter 2015). "A Century of Sonar: Planetary Oceanography, Underwater Noise Monitoring, and the Terminology of Underwater Sound" (PDF). Acoustics Today. 11 (1): 12–19.
  2. ^ ISO 80000:1-2009 § C.3
  3. ^ a b Brian C.J. Moore (1995). Hearing. Academic Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-08-053386-5.
  4. ^ ISO 80000-1:2009 § C.2
  5. ^ ISO 80000-3:2006 § 0.5
  6. ^ IEC 60027-3:2002
  7. ^ ISO 80000-1:2009 § C.2