Revision of the International System of Units (Background paper)
The International System of Units (SI) is the only globally agreed practical system of measurement units. Stemming from the Metre Convention of 1875, which established a permanent organisational structure for member governments to act in common accord on all matters relating to units of measurement, the SI was formalised in 1960 and defined by the ‘SI Brochure’. The foundation of the SI are the set of seven well defined base units: the metre, the kilogram, the second, the ampere, the kelvin, the mole, and the candela, from which all derived units (such as metres per second) are formed. On 16 November 2018 the 26th General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) met, at an open meeting at the Palais des Congrès, Versailles, to discuss and vote on the re-definition of four of the SI’s seven base units: the mole, the ampere, the kelvin, and the kilogram. This change, effective from World Metrology Day (20 May) 2019, is perhaps the most fundamental change in the SI since its inception. For the first time the SI will be defined entirely in terms of fundamental physical constants, instead of requiring the maintenance of a physical artefact. This technical brief explains why this re-definition came about. No practical implications of the change are envisaged for analytical chemistry in the short term and improvements in measurement may take some time to realise.