Pascal (unit)

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A pressure gauge reading in psi (red scale) and kPa (black scale)
General information
Unit system SI
Unit of Pressure or stress
Named after Blaise Pascal
1 Pa in ...... is equal to ...
    SI base units:    kg m −1 s −2
    US customary units:   1.45038×10−4  psi
    atmosphere:   9.86923×10−6 atm
    bar:   10−5 bar
    barye (CGS unit)   10 Ba

The pascal (symbol: Pa) is the unit of pressure in the International System of Units (SI), and is also used to quantify internal pressure, stress, Young's modulus, and ultimate tensile strength. The unit, named after Blaise Pascal, is defined as one newton per square metre [1] and is equivalent to 10 barye (Ba) in the CGS system. The unit of measurement called standard atmosphere (atm) is defined as 101,325 Pa. [2]


Common multiple units of the pascal are the hectopascal (1 hPa = 100 Pa), which is equal to one millibar, and the kilopascal (1 kPa = 1000 Pa), which is equal to one centibar.

Meteorological observations typically report atmospheric pressure in hectopascals per the recommendation of the World Meteorological Organization, thus a standard atmosphere (atm) or typical sea-level air pressure is about 1013 hPa. Reports in the United States typically use inches of mercury [3] or millibars (hectopascals). [4] [5] In Canada these reports are given in kilopascals. [6]


The unit is named after Blaise Pascal, noted for his contributions to hydrodynamics and hydrostatics, and experiments with a barometer. The name pascal was adopted for the SI unit newton per square metre (N/m2) by the 14th General Conference on Weights and Measures in 1971. [7] [8]


The pascal can be expressed using SI derived units, or alternatively solely SI base units, as:

where N is the newton, m is the metre, kg is the kilogram, s is the second, and J is the joule. [9]

One pascal is the pressure exerted by a force of magnitude one newton perpendicularly upon an area of one square metre.

Standard units

The unit of measurement called an atmosphere or a standard atmosphere (atm) is 101325 Pa (101.325 kPa). [10] This value is often used as a reference pressure and specified as such in some national and international standards, such as the International Organization for Standardization's ISO 2787 (pneumatic tools and compressors), ISO 2533 (aerospace) and ISO 5024 (petroleum). In contrast, International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) recommends the use of 100 kPa as a standard pressure when reporting the properties of substances. [11]

Unicode has dedicated code-points U+33A9SQUARE PA and U+33AASQUARE KPA in the CJK Compatibility block, but these exist only for backward-compatibility with some older ideographic character-sets and are therefore deprecated. [12] [13]


The pascal (Pa) or kilopascal (kPa) as a unit of pressure measurement is widely used throughout the world and has largely replaced the pounds per square inch (psi) unit, except in some countries that still use the imperial measurement system or the US customary system, including the United States.

Geophysicists use the gigapascal (GPa) in measuring or calculating tectonic stresses and pressures within the Earth.

Medical elastography measures tissue stiffness non-invasively with ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging, and often displays the Young's modulus or shear modulus of tissue in kilopascals.

In materials science and engineering, the pascal measures the stiffness, tensile strength and compressive strength of materials. In engineering the megapascal (MPa) is the preferred unit for these uses, because the pascal represents a very small quantity.

Approximate Young's modulus for common substances [14]
MaterialYoung's modulus
Nylon 6 2–4
Hemp fibre35
Aluminium 69
Tooth enamel 83
Copper 117
Structural steel 200
Diamond 1220

The pascal is also equivalent to the SI unit of energy density, the joule per cubic metre. This applies not only to the thermodynamics of pressurised gases, but also to the energy density of electric, magnetic, and gravitational fields.

The pascal is used to measure sound pressure. Loudness is the subjective experience of sound pressure and is measured as a sound pressure level (SPL) on a logarithmic scale of the sound pressure relative to some reference pressure. For sound in air, a pressure of 20 μPa is considered to be at the threshold of hearing for humans and is a common reference pressure, so that its SPL is zero.

The airtightness of buildings is measured at 50 Pa. [15]

In medicine, blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg, very close to one Torr). The normal adult blood pressure is less than 120 mmHg systolic BP (SBP) and less than 80 mmHg diastolic BP (DBP). [16] Convert mmHg to SI units as follows: 1 mmHg = 0.13332 kPa. Hence normal blood pressure in SI units is less than 16.0 kPa SBP and less than 10.7 kPa DBP. These values are similar to the pressure of water column of average human height; so pressure has to be measured on arm roughly at the level of the heart.

Hectopascal and millibar units

The units of atmospheric pressure commonly used in meteorology were formerly the bar, which was close to the average air pressure on Earth, and the millibar. Since the introduction of SI units, meteorologists generally measure pressures in hectopascals (hPa) unit, equal to 100 pascals or 1 millibar. [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] Exceptions include Canada, which uses kilopascals (kPa). In many other fields of science, prefixes that are a power of 1000 are preferred, which excludes the hectopascal from use. [24] [25]

Many countries also use millibars. In practically all other fields, the kilopascal (1000 pascals) is used instead. [26]

Multiples and submultiples

Decimal multiples and sub-multiples are formed using standard SI units.

101 PadecapascaldaPa10−1 PadecipascaldPa
102 PahectopascalhPa10−2 PacentipascalcPa
103 PakilopascalkPa10−3 PamillipascalmPa
106 PamegapascalMPa10−6 PamicropascalμPa
109 PagigapascalGPa10−9 PananopascalnPa
1012 PaterapascalTPa10−12 PapicopascalpPa
1015 PapetapascalPPa10−15 PafemtopascalfPa
1018 PaexapascalEPa10−18 PaattopascalaPa
1021 PazettapascalZPa10−21 PazeptopascalzPa
1024 PayottapascalYPa10−24 PayoctopascalyPa

See also

Related Research Articles

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Atmospheric pressure, also known as barometric pressure, is the pressure within the atmosphere of Earth. The standard atmosphere is a unit of pressure defined as 101,325 Pa (1,013.25 hPa), which is equivalent to 1013.25 millibars, 760 mm Hg, 29.9212 inches Hg, or 14.696 psi. The atm unit is roughly equivalent to the mean sea-level atmospheric pressure on Earth; that is, the Earth's atmospheric pressure at sea level is approximately 1 atm.

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