The work required to produce one watt of power for one second, or one watt-second (W⋅s) (compare kilowatt-hour – 3.6 megajoules). This relationship can be used to define the watt.
The joule is named after James Prescott Joule. As with every SI unit named for a person, its symbol starts with an upper case letter (J), but when written in full it follows the rules for capitalisation of a common noun; i.e., "joule" becomes capitalised at the beginning of a sentence and in titles, but is otherwise in lower case.
"Such a heat unit, if found acceptable, might with great propriety, I think, be called the Joule, after the man who has done so much to develop the dynamical theory of heat."
At the second International Electrical Congress, on 31 August 1889, the joule was officially adopted alongside the watt and the quadrant (later renamed to henry).
Joule died in the same year, on 11 October 1889.
At the fourth congress (1893), the "international Ampere" and "international Ohm" were defined, with slight changes in the specifications for their measurement, with the "international Joule" being the unit derived from them.
The definition of the joule as J=kg⋅m2⋅s−2 has remained unchanged since 1946, but the joule as a derived unit has inherited changes in the definitions of the second (in 1960 and 1967), the metre (in 1983) and the kilogram (in 2019).
One joule represents (approximately):
The energy required to accelerate a 1 kg mass at 1 m/s2 through a distance of 1 m.
The energy required to lift a medium-sized tomato up 1 metre (3 ft 3 in), assume the tomato has a mass of 101.97 grams (3.597 oz).
The heat required to raise the temperature 0.239 g of water from 0°C to 1°C, or from 32°F to 33.8°F.
The typical energy released as heat by a person at rest every 1/60 s (17 ms).[note 1]
The kinetic energy of a 50 kg human moving very slowly (0.2 m/s or 0.72 km/h).
The kinetic energy of a 56 g tennis ball moving at 6 m/s (22 km/h).
The amount of electricity required to run a 1 W device for 1 s.
The food energy (kcal) in slightly more than half of a sugar crystal (0.102 mg/crystal).
SI multiples of joule (J)
Common multiples are in bold face
The yoctojoule (yJ) is equal to 10−24 joule.
The zeptojoule (zJ) is equal to one sextillionth (10−21) of one joule. 160 zJ is about one electronvolt. The minimal energy needed to change a bit at around room temperature – approximately 2.75 zJ – is given by the Landauer limit.
The attojoule (aJ) is equal to 10−18 joule.
The femtojoule (fJ) is equal to 10−15 joule.
The picojoule (pJ) is equal to one trillionth (10−12) of one joule.
The nanojoule (nJ) is equal to one billionth (10−9) of one joule. 160 nanojoules is about the kinetic energy of a flying mosquito.
The microjoule (μJ) is equal to one millionth (10−6) of one joule. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) produces collisions of the microjoule order (7 TeV) per particle.
The millijoule (mJ) is equal to one thousandth (10−3) of a joule.
The kilojoule (kJ) is equal to one thousand (103) joules. Nutritional food labels in most countries express energy in kilojoules (kJ). One square metre of the Earth receives about 1.4 kilojoules of solar radiation every second in full daylight.
The megajoule (MJ) is equal to one million (106) joules, or approximately the kinetic energy of a one megagram (tonne) vehicle moving at 161 km/h (100 mph). The energy required to heat 10 L of liquid water at constant pressure from 0 °C (32 °F) to 100 °C (212 °F) is approximately 4.2 MJ. One kilowatt-hour of electricity is 3.6 megajoules.
The zettajoule (ZJ) is equal to one sextillion (1021) joules. Human annual world energy consumption is approximately 0.5 ZJ. The energy to raise the temperature of Earth's atmosphere 1 °C is approximately 2.2 ZJ.
The yottajoule (YJ) is equal to one septillion (1024) joules. This is approximately the amount of energy required to heat all the water on Earth by 1 °C. The thermal output of the Sun is approximately 400 YJ per second.
1 joule is equal to (approximately unless otherwise stated):
A result of this similarity is that the SI unit for torque is the newton-metre, which works out algebraically to have the same dimensions as the joule, but are not interchangeable. The General Conference on Weights and Measures has given the unit of energy the name joule, but has not given the unit of torque any special name, hence it is simply the newton-metre (N⋅m) – a compound name derived from its constituent parts. The use of newton-metres for torque and joules for energy is helpful to avoid misunderstandings and miscommunications.
The distinction may be seen also in the fact that energy is a scalar quantity – the dot product of a force vector and a displacement vector. By contrast, torque is a vector – the cross product of a force vector and a distance vector. Torque and energy are related to one another by the equation
where E is energy, τ is (the vector magnitude of) torque, and θ is the angle swept (in radians). Since plane angles are dimensionless, it follows that torque and energy have the same dimensions.
A watt-second (symbol W s or W·s) is a derived unit of energy equivalent to the joule. The watt-second is the energy equivalent to the power of one watt sustained for one second. While the watt-second is equivalent to the joule in both units and meaning, there are some contexts in which the term "watt-second" is used instead of "joule".[why?]
In photography, the unit for flashes is the watt-second. A flash can be rated in watt-seconds (e.g., 300 W⋅s) or in joules (different names for the same thing), but historically, the term "watt-second" has been used and continues to be used.
The energy rating a flash is given is not a reliable benchmark for its light output because there are numerous factors that affect the energy conversion efficiency. For example, the construction of the tube will affect the efficiency, and the use of reflectors and filters will change the usable light output towards the subject. Some companies specify their products in "true" watt-seconds, and some specify their products in "nominal" watt-seconds.
^American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Online Edition (2009). Houghton Mifflin Co., hosted by Yahoo! Education.
^The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition (1985). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., p. 691.
^McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Physics, Fifth Edition (1997). McGraw-Hill, Inc., p. 224.
^"The unit of heat has hitherto been taken variously as the heat required to raise a pound of water at the freezing-point through 1° Fahrenheit or Centigrade, or, again, the heat necessary to raise a kilogramme of water 1° Centigrade. The inconvenience of a unit so entirely arbitrary is sufficiently apparent to justify the introduction of one based on the electro-magnetic system, viz. the heat generated in one second by the current of an Ampère flowing through the resistance of an Ohm. In absolute measure its value is 107 C.G.S. units, and, assuming Joule's equivalent as 42,000,000, it is the heat necessary to raise 0.238 grammes of water 1° Centigrade, or, approximately, the 1⁄1000th part of the arbitrary unit of a pound of water raised 1° Fahrenheit and the 1⁄4000th of the kilogramme of water raised 1° Centigrade. Such a heat unit, if found acceptable, might with great propriety, I think, be called the Joule, after the man who has done so much to develop the dynamical theory of heat."Carl Wilhelm Siemens, Report of the Fifty-Second Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. S. 6 f.
^Pat Naughtin: A chronological history of the modern metric system., metricationmatters.com, 2009.
^CIPM, 1946, Resolution 2, Definitions of electric units.bipm.org.
^9th CGPM, Resolution 3: Triple point of water; thermodynamic scale with a single fixed point; unit of quantity of heat (joule)., bipm.org.
^"Units of Heat – BTU, Calorie and Joule". Engineering Toolbox. Retrieved 2021-06-14.
^Ristinen, Robert A.; Kraushaar, Jack J. (2006). Energy and the Environment (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-73989-8.
^"Physics – CERN". public.web.cern.ch. Archived from the original on 2012-12-13.
^"You Say Calorie, We Say Kilojoule: Who's Right?". Retrieved 2 May 2017.
^"Construction of a Composite Total Solar Irradiance (TSI) Time Series from 1978 to present". Archived from the original on 2011-08-30. Retrieved 2005-10-05.
^"Energy Units – Energy Explained, Your Guide To Understanding Energy – Energy Information Administration". www.eia.gov.
^Malik, John (September 1985). "Report LA-8819: The yields of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear explosions" (PDF). Los Alamos National Laboratory. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 October 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
^"International Space Station Final Configuration" (PDF). European Space Agency. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
^Bonnie Berkowitz; Laris Karklis; Reuben Fischer-Baum; Chiqui Esteban (11 September 2017). "Analysis – How big is Hurricane Irma?". Washington Post. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
^"Irma unleashes its fury on south Florida", Financial Times, accessed 10-Sept-2017 (subscription required)
^The adoption of joules as units of energy, FAO/WHO Ad Hoc Committee of Experts on Energy and Protein, 1971. A report on the changeover from calories to joules in nutrition.
^Feynman, Richard (1963). "Physical Units". Feynman's Lectures on Physics. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
^ ab"Units with special names and symbols; units that incorporate special names and symbols". International Bureau of Weights and Measures. Archived from the original on 28 June 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2015. A derived unit can often be expressed in different ways by combining base units with derived units having special names. Joule, for example, may formally be written newton metre, or kilogram metre squared per second squared. This, however, is an algebraic freedom to be governed by common sense physical considerations; in a given situation some forms may be more helpful than others. In practice, with certain quantities, preference is given to the use of certain special unit names, or combinations of unit names, to facilitate the distinction between different quantities having the same dimension.