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Heaps of moles? Mediating macroscopic and microscopic measurement of chemical substances

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-27
Number of pages9
Early online date14 Jun 2018
Accepted/In press5 Jun 2018
E-pub ahead of print14 Jun 2018
PublishedApr 2020


King's Authors


In this paper I take a close look at the SI base quantity “amount of substance”, and its unit, the mole. The mole was introduced as a base unit in the SI in 1971, and there is currently a proposal to change its definition. The current definition of the mole shows a certain ambiguity regarding the nature of the quantity “amount of substance”. The proposed new definition removes the ambiguity, but at a cost: it becomes difficult to justify treating amount of substance as having its own dimension, and hence its own unit, the mole. I argue that the difficulties with amount of substance result from its role as a mediator between macroscopic and microscopic scales. To understand why amount of substance might have its own dimension, we need to connect amount of substance to mass, contra current proposals to separate them.

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