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This article is about the unit of energy. For other uses, see Joule (disambiguation).
Unit system: SI derived unit
Unit of... Energy
Symbol: J
Named after: James Prescott Joule
Unit conversions
1 J in... is equal to...
   SI base units    1 kg·m2/s2
   CGS units    1×107 erg
   kilowatt hours    2.78×10Template:Val/delimitnum/gaps11 kW⋅h
   kilocalories    2.39×10Template:Val/delimitnum/gaps11 kcal
   BTUs    9.48×10Template:Val/delimitnum/gaps11 BTU
   electronvolts    6.24×1018 eV

The joule (/ˈl/ or sometimes /ˈl/), symbol J, is a derived unit of energy, work, or amount of heat in the International System of Units.[1] It is equal to the energy expended (or work done) in applying a force of one newton through a distance of one metre (1 newton metre or N·m), or in passing an electric current of one ampere through a resistance of one ohm for one second. It is named after the English physicist James Prescott Joule (1818–1889).[2][3][4]

In terms firstly of base SI units and then in terms of other SI units:

\rm J = {}\rm \frac{kg \cdot m^2}{s^2} = N \cdot m = \rm Pa \cdot m^3={}\rm W \cdot s = C \cdot V

where N is the newton, m is the metre, kg is the kilogram, s is the second, Pa is the pascal, W is the watt, C is the coulomb, and V is the volt.

One joule can also be defined as:


This The International System of Units, section 5.2.

Confusion with newton-metre

Main article: newton metre

In angular mechanics, torque is analogous to the linear Newtonian mechanics parameter of force, moment of inertia to mass, and angle to distance. Energy is the same in both systems. Thus, although the joule has the same dimensions as the newton-meter (1 J = 1 N·m = 1 kg·m2·s−2), these units are not interchangeable: the CGPM has given the unit of energy the name "joule", but has not given the unit of torque any special name, hence the unit of torque is known as the newton-metre (N·m) - a compound name derived from its constituent parts.[5] Torque and energy are related to each other using the equation

E= \tau \theta\

where E is the energy, τ is the torque, and θ is the angle moved (in radians). Since radians are dimensionless, it follows that torque and energy have the same dimensions.

The use of newton-metres for torque and joules for energy is useful in helping avoid misunderstandings and miscommunications.[5] Another solution to this problem is to name the unit of angle, such that the unit of torque is called joule per radian.

Practical examples

One joule in everyday life represents approximately:

  • the energy required to lift a small apple (weighing approximately 100 g) vertically through one meter.
  • the energy released when that same apple falls one meter to the ground.
  • the heat required to raise the temperature of 1 g of water by 0.24 K.[6]
  • the typical energy released as heat by a person at rest, every 1/60th of a second.[7]
  • the kinetic energy of a 50 kg human moving very slowly (0.2 m/s).
  • the kinetic energy of a tennis ball moving at 23 km/h (6.4 m/s).[8]

Since the joule is also a watt-second and the common unit for electricity sales to homes is the kWh (kilowatt-hour), a kWh is thus 1000 (kilo) x 3600 seconds = 3.6 MJ (megajoules).


For additional examples, see: Orders of magnitude (energy)
SI multiples for joule (J)
Submultiples Multiples
Value Symbol Name Value Symbol Name
10−1 J dJ decijoule 101 J daJ decajoule
10−2 J cJ centijoule 102 J hJ hectojoule
10−3 J mJ millijoule 103 J kJ kilojoule
10−6 J µJ microjoule 106 J MJ megajoule
10−9 J nJ nanojoule 109 J GJ gigajoule
10−12 J pJ picojoule 1012 J TJ terajoule
10−15 J fJ femtojoule 1015 J PJ petajoule
10−18 J aJ attojoule 1018 J EJ exajoule
10−21 J zJ zeptojoule 1021 J ZJ zettajoule
10−24 J yJ yoctojoule 1024 J YJ yottajoule
Common multiples are in bold face


The nanojoule (nJ) is equal to one billionth of one joule. One nanojoule is about 1/160 of the kinetic energy of a flying mosquito.[9]


The microjoule (μJ) is equal to one millionth of one joule. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is expected to produce collisions on the order of 1 microjoule (7 TeV) per particle.


The millijoule (mJ) is equal to one thousandth of a joule.


The kilojoule (kJ) is equal to one thousand (103) joules. Nutritional food labels in certain countries express energy in standard kilojoules (kJ).

One kilojoule per second (1000 watts) is approximately the amount of solar radiation received by one square metre of the Earth in full daylight.[10]


The megajoule (MJ) is equal to one million (106) joules, or approximately the kinetic energy of a one-ton vehicle moving at 160 km/h (100 mph).

Because 1 watt times one second equals one joule, 1 kilowatt-hour is 1000 watts times 3600 seconds, or 3.6 megajoules.


The gigajoule (GJ) is equal to one billion (109) joules. Six gigajoules is about the amount of potential chemical energy in a barrel of oil, when combusted.[11]


The terajoule (TJ) is equal to one trillion (1012) joules. About 63 terajoules were released by the atomic bomb that exploded over Hiroshima.[12] The International Space Station, with a mass of approximately 450,000 kg and orbital velocity of 7.7 km/s,[13] has a kinetic energy of roughly 13.34 terajoules.


The petajoule (PJ) is equal to one quadrillion (1015) joules. 210 PJ is equivalent to about 50 megatons of TNT. This is the amount of energy released by the Tsar Bomba, the largest man-made nuclear explosion ever.


The exajoule (EJ) is equal to one quintillion (1018) joules. The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan had 1.41 EJ of energy according to its 9.0 on the moment magnitude scale. Energy in the United States used per year is roughly 94 EJ.


The zettajoule (ZJ) is equal to one sextillion (1021) joules. Annual global energy consumption is approximately 0.5 ZJ.


The yottajoule (YJ) is equal to one septillion (1024) joules. This is approximately the amount of energy required to heat the entire volume of water on Earth by 1 °Celsius.


Main article: Conversion of units of energy

1 joule is equal to:

Units defined exactly in terms of the joule include:

  • 1 thermochemical calorie = 4.184 J[14]
  • 1 International Table calorie = 4.1868 J[14]
  • 1 watt hour = 3600 J
  • 1 kilowatt hour = 3.6×106 J (or 3.6 MJ)
  • 1 watt second = 1 J
  • 1 ton TNT = 4.184 GJ

See also

Notes and references

External links

  • Unit conversion from joule

Template:Footer energy

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