Ampere (unit of electric current)

The ampere (symbol: A), often shortened to “amp“, is the base unit of electric current in the International System of Units (SI) used to measure of the rate of electron flow or current in an electrical conductor. It is named after André-Marie Ampère, French mathematician and physicist, considered the father of electrodynamics. One ampere of current represents one coulomb of electrical charge (6.24 · 1018 charge carriers) moving past a specific point in one second.

Electric units, called “international units,” for current and resistance, were introduced by the International Electrical Congress held in Chicago in 1893, and definitions of the “international ampere” and “international ohm” were confirmed by the International Conference in London in 1908.

Although it was already obvious on the occasion of the 8th CGPM (1933) that there was a unanimous desire to replace those “international units” by so-called “absolute units,” the official decision to abolish them was only taken by the 9th CGPM (1948), which adopted the ampere for the unit of electric current, following a definition proposed by the CIPM (1946):

The ampere (A) is that constant current which, if maintained in two straight parallel conductors of infinite length, of negligible circular cross-section, and placed 1 meter apart in vacuum, would produce between these conductors a force equal to 2 · 10−7 newton per meter of length.

It follows that the magnetic constant μ0, also known as the permeability of vacuum, is exactly 4π · 10−7 henries per meter, μ0 = 4π · 10−7 H/m.

The expression “MKS unit of force” which occurs in the original text of 1946 has been replaced here by “newton,” a name adopted for this unit by the 9th CGPM (1948).

Related keywords

  • Ampacity