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CHAPTER 6

Dimensions, Units and


Unit Conversions
MEC 400
INTRODUCTION TO ENGINEERING
AND PROBLEM SOLVING

The magnitude of physical quantities can be understood only when they are
compared with predetermined reference amounts, called units.

Examples of physical quantities:


length, mass, time, force, velocity, acceleration, momentum,
pressure, energy or work, power, torque, electric current and
voltage, heat, magnetic flux, luminance, concentration, and etc.

Dimensions: used to describe physical quantities and are independent of


units
Physical
Quantity
Length
Mass
Time
Force
Density
Power
Volume

Dimension

Possible unit

L
M
T
F
M / L3
FL/ T
L3

meter, feet, mile


kilogram, slugs, pound-mass
second, hour, day
, pound-force
kg/m3, g/cm3
watt, ftlbf/s
m3, in3

Types of dimension: fundamental and derived

Fundamental dimension
Dimension that can be conveniently and usefully manipulated when
expressing physical quantities of particular field.

Three fundamental dimensions are necessary to form a complete


mechanical dimensional system, namely, length (L), mass (M), and
time (T). If temperature is important, then a fourth dimension,
temperature () is added.

Derived dimensions
Combinations of fundamental dimensions.
Example:
Velocity is derived from length and time as
v = (L)(T)-1
Force (using absolute system) is derived from length, mass, and time as
F = (M)(L)(T)-2

A dimensional system can be defined as the smallest number of


fundamental dimensions that will form a consistent and complete
set for a field of science.
The absolute system has as its fundamental dimensions L, T and M.

Adv:comparison of masses at various location can be made-no gravitational effect

The gravitational system has as its fundamental dimensions L, T and


F.
Adv: simplify computation when weight is fundamental qty in computations

Quantity Absolute Gravitational


Length
Time
Mass
Force
Velocity
Pressure
Momentum
Energy
Power
Torque

L
T
M
MLT-2
LT-1
ML-1T-2
MLT-1
ML2T-2
ML2T-3
ML2T-2

Two basic dimensional system


L
T
FL-1T2
F
LT-1
FL-2
FT
FL
FLT-1
FL

Dimensional Analysis - a manipulation of fundamental dimensions to express the


new derived dimensions or to get consistent dimensions for all terms in the
equations. In other words, the equation must be dimensionally homogeneous at
every stage in the manipulation.
Example:
Pressure:
p = (force)/(area)
=> p = ML-1T-2
Work:
W = (force)(distance)
=> W = (M)(L)(T)-2(L) or ML2T-2

Throughout the world, there are several systems of units in use. The most
common systems of units are International System (SI) and US Customary
System(USCS) .

International System of Unit (SI)


Basis for worldwide standardization of measurements.
Divided 3 classes of units:
1. Base units-7
2. Supplementary units-2
3. Derived units-combine base +supplementary +other derived units

Table of base units


Quantity

Unit Name

Length
Mass
Time
Electric current
Thermodynamic
temperature
Amount of substance
Luminous intensity

meter
kilogram
second
ampere
kelvin
mole
candela

Unit
Symbol
m
kg
s
A
K
mol
cd

Table of supplementary units


Quantity

Unit
Name
Plane angle radian
Solid angle steradian

Unit Symbol
rad
sr

Table of some derived units


Quantity
Unit Name Unit Symbol
Frequency
hertz
Hz
Force. newton.
N.
Pressure or Stress.
pascal.
Pa.
Energy or Work.
joule.
J.
Power.
watt.
W.
Electric charge. coulomb.
C.
Electric potential.
volt.
V.
Electric conductance. siemens.
S.
Magnetic flux.
weber.
Wb.
Inductance.
henry.
H.

Base unit
s-1
kg.m.s-2
kg.m-1.s-2
kg.m2.s-2
kg.m2.s-3
A.s
W/A*.
A/V*.
V.s*
Wb/A*.

Unit Symbols and Names


1. Periods should never be used after symbols unless symbol is at end of
sentence.SI units symbols are not abbreviations.
2. Unit symbols are written in lower case(unless symbol from proper
name).
Lowercase

Uppercase

M,kg,s,mol
K,A,Hz,Pa
3. Symbols rather than self-styled abbreviations should be used to
represent units.
Correct

Not correct

amp

s
sec
4. Never add s to symbol to indicate plural

5. Add a space between numerical value and unit symbol.


Correct

Not correct

56.8 km

56.8km

765 Pa

765Pa

6. No space between prefix and unit symbol and unit name.


Correct

Not correct

Mm,M

K m, F

7. When writing unit names, all letters are lowercase except beginning of
sentence
8. Plurals are used as required when writing unit names,e.g:henries (plural
for henry) except for below units:
- lux, hertz, siemens (same for singular and plural)

9. Symbol should be used in preference to unit name because symbols are


standardized.(except when number is written in words preceding unit).
e.g: ten meters, not ten m

Multiplication and Division.


1. Use space/hypen when write unit names. Eg: Newton meter or Newtonmeter
2. When a quotient is expressed using unit names, always use the word
per and a space between them- not a slash (/).
Correct

Not correct

Meter per second

Meter/second

3. When unit names require a power, a modifier such as squared or cubed


are employed.
Correct

Not correct

Millimeter squared

Square millimeter

4. Writing products and quotients using symbols, the center dot ( ) and the
slash ( / ) are used respectively.
Correct
N.M for Newton meter
5. When denoting a quotient by unit symbols, any of following methods are
accepted form:
or m/s or ms-1

Numbers
1. To denote decimal poiunt, use period on line. When expressing numbers
less than 1, a zero should be written before decimal marker.E.g: 14.7,
0.03
2. Add space to group or separate digits of 3.
Correct and recommended procedure
6.718 234

78 657

2 456

0.343 81

Since many unit systems have been used around the world, we need to
know how to convert the units from one system to another system.
Some of the important and frequently used conversion factors are
given in the tables below.
English
1 ft
1 lbm
1 lbf
1 slug
1oR

SI
0.3 048 m
0.4 536 kg
4.448 N
14.59 kg
5
9

Numerical relationship between SI and English units

1 ft = 12 inch
1 mi = 5280 ft
1 slug = 32.2 lbm
1 yd = 3 ft
1 kip = 1000 lbf
1 Btu = 777.65 ft.lbf
Relationships between certain quantities in English system