|Named after||Anders Jonas Ångström|
|1 Å in ...||... is equal to ...|
The natural sciences and technology often use ångström to express sizes of atoms, molecules, microscopic biological structures, and lengths of chemical bonds, arrangement of atoms in crystals, wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, and dimensions of integrated circuit parts. Atoms of phosphorus, sulfur, and chlorine are about an ångström in covalent radius, while a hydrogen atom is about half an ångström; see atomic radius. Visible light has wavelengths in the range of 4000–7000 Å.
The unit is named after the Swedish physicist Anders Jonas Ångström (1814–1874). The symbol is always written with a ring diacritic, as the letter in the Swedish alphabet. The unit's name is often written in English without the diacritics, but the official definitions do contain them. It is not a part of the SI system of units.
The ångström is used extensively in crystallography, solid-state physics and chemistry as a unit for d-spacings (the distance between atomic planes in a crystal), cell parameters, inter-atomic distances and x-ray wavelengths, as these values are often in the 1–10 Å range. For example, the Inorganic Crystal Structure Database presents all these values using the ångström.
In 1852, Ångström formulated in Optiska undersökningar, in English translation Optical Researches, a law of absorption, later modified somewhat and known as Kirchhoff's law of thermal radiation.
In 1868, Ångström created a chart of the spectrum of solar radiation that expressed the wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation in the electromagnetic spectrum in multiples of one ten-millionth of a millimetre (or mm.) 10−7 Since the human eye is sensitive to wavelengths from about to 40007000 Å, what we commonly call visible light, that unit supported sufficiently accurate measurements of visible wavelengths without resorting to fractional numbers. The unit then spread to other sciences that deal with atomic-scale structures.
Though intended to correspond to 10−10 metres, for precise spectral analysis, the ångström had to be defined more accurately than the metre, which until 1960 was still defined based on the length of a bar of metal held in Paris. The use of metal bars had been involved in an early error in the value of the ångström of about one part in 6000. Ångström took the precaution of having the standard bar he used checked against a standard in Paris, but the metrologist Henri Tresca reported it to be so much shorter than it really was that Ångström's corrected results were more in error than the uncorrected ones.
In 1907, the International Astronomical Union defined the international ångström by declaring the wavelength of the red line of cadmium in air equal to 6438.46963 international ångströms, and this definition was endorsed by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in 1927. From 1927 to 1960, the ångström remained a secondary unit of length for use in spectroscopy, defined separately from the metre. In 1960, the metre itself was redefined in spectroscopic terms, and then the ångström was redefined as being exactly 0.1 nanometres.
The ångström is internationally recognized, but is not a formal part of the International System of Units (SI). The closest SI unit is the nanometre ( m). The International Committee for Weights and Measures officially discourages its use, and it is not included in the 10−9European Union's catalogue of units of measure that may be used within its internal market.
Before digital typesetting, the ångström (or ångström unit) was sometimes written as "A.U." (also an abbreviation of the astronomical unit). This use is evident in Bragg's paper on the structure of ice, which gives the c- and a-axis lattice constants as 4.52 A.U. and 7.34 A.U., respectively.
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- Bragg, W. H. (1921). "The Crystal Structure of Ice". Proceedings of the Physical Society of London. 34 (1): 98. Bibcode:1921PPSL...34...98B. doi:10.1088/1478-7814/34/1/322.