Translator

Quantities and Units in Electronics

QuantityUsual
Symbol
UnitUnit
Symbol
VoltageVvoltV
CurrentIamp*A
ChargeQcoulombC
ResistanceRohmohm
CapacitanceCfaradF
InductanceLhenryH
ReactanceXohmohm
ImpedanceZohmohm
PowerPwattW
EnergyEjouleJ
Timetseconds
FrequencyfhertzHz
* strictly the unit is ampere, but this is
almost always shortened to amp.

Quantities

The table shows electrical quantities which are used in electronics.
The relationship between quantities can be written using words or symbols (letters), but symbols are normally used because they are much shorter; for example V is used for voltage, I for current and R for resistance:
As a word equation:
      voltage = current × resistance
The same equation using symbols:   V = I × R
To prevent confusion we normally use the same symbol (letter) for each quantity and these symbols are shown in the second column of the table.
Please click on the quantities in the table for further information.


PrefixPrefix
Symbol
Value
millim10-3= 0.001
microµ10-6= 0.000 001
nanon10-9= 0.000 000 001
picop10-12= 0.000 000 000 001
kilok103= 1000
megaM106= 1000 000
gigaG109= 1000 000 000
teraT1012= 1000 000 000 000

Units

The first table shows the unit (and unit symbol) which is used to measure each quantity. For example: Charge is measured in coulombs and the symbol for a coulomb is C.
Some of the units have a convenient size for electronics, but most are either too large or too small to be used directly so they are used with the prefixes shown in the second table. The prefixes make the unit larger or smaller by the value shown.
Some examples:
25 mA = 25 × 10-3 A = 25 × 0.001 A = 0.025 A
47µF = 47 × 10-6 F = 47 × 0.000 001 F = 0.000 047 F
270kohm = 270 × 103 ohm = 270 × 1000 ohm = 270 000 ohm

Why not change the units to be better sizes?

It might seem a good idea to make the farad (F) much smaller to avoid having to use µF, nF and pF, but if we did this most of the equations in electronics would have to have factors of 1000000 or more included as well as the quantities. Overall it is much better to have the units with their present sizes which are defined logically from the equations.
In fact if you use an equation frequently you can use special sets of prefixed units which are more convenient...
For example: Ohm's Law, V = I × R
    the standard units are volt (V), amp (A) and ohm (ohm),
    but you could use volt (V), milliamp (mA) and kilo-ohm (kohm) if you prefer.
Take care though, you must never mix sets of units: using V, A and kohm in Ohm's Law would give you wrong values.

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