Base units in the Metric System can be converted into units that are more appropriate for the quantity being measured by adding a prefix to the name of the base unit. The common metric prefixes are given below.

Prefixes are used to help in the description of a quantity of substance along with its units. For example, if there is 0.0000000005 L of water then it would be a lot easier to write it as 500 picoliters (pL) of water. Prefixes therefore remove the cumbersome task of writing data to several decimal places.

A list of prefixes are shown below:

Prefix Symbol Value Description
pico p 10-12 1 picoliter, (pL) = 0.000000000001L
nano n 10-9 1 nanogram, (ng) = 0.0000000001g
micro µ or u 10-6 1 micrometer (µm) = 0.000001 m
milli m 10-3 1 milliliter (mL) = 0.001 L
centi c 10-2 1 centimeter (cm) = 0.01 m
deci d 10-1 1 decigram (dg) = 0.1 g
kilo K 10 3 1 kilogram (Kg) = 1000 g
mega M 10 6 1 megagram (Mg) = 1,000,000 g

The base units of length and volume are linked in the metric system. By definition, a liter is equal to the volume of a cube exactly 10 cm tall, 10 cm long and 10 cm wide. Because the volume of this cube is 1000 cubic centimeters and a liter contains 1000 milliliters, 1 milliliter is equivalent to 1 cubic centimeter.

1 mL = 1cm3
1×106 cm3 = 1m3
1000 cm3 = 1L

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