Handout – Unit Conversions (Dimensional Analysis) 2015
Basic metric units

length

meter (m)

mass

gram (g)

volume

liter (L)

time

second (s)

temperature

Celsius (°C) or Kelvin (°K) where C=K273.15
 The Metric System had its beginnings back in 1670 by a mathematician called Gabriel Mouton. The modern version, (since 1960) is correctly called "International System of Units" or "SI" (from the French "Système International"). The metric system has been officially sanctioned for use in the United States since 1866, but it remains the only industrialized country that has not adopted the metric system as its official system of measurement. Many sources also cite Liberia and Burma as the only other countries not to have done so.
This section will cover conversions (1) selected units in the metric and American systems, (2) compound or derived measures, and (3) between metric and American systems. Also, (4) applications using conversions will be presented.
The metric system is based on a set of basic units and prefixes representing powers of 10.
Prefixes (The units that are in bold are the ones that are most commonly used.)

prefix

symbol

value

giga

G

1,000,000,000 = 10^{9} ( a billion)

mega

M

1,000,000 = 10^{6} ( a million)

kilo

k

1,000 = 10^{3}

hecto

h

100 = 10^{2}

deca

da

10



1

deci

d

= 0.1 = 10^{1}

centi

c

= 0.01 = 10^{2}

milli

m

= 0.001 = 10^{3} (a thousandth)

micro

μ (the Greek letter mu)

= 0.000001 = 10^{6} (a millionth)

nano

n

= 0.000000001 = 10^{9} (a billionth)

To get a sense of the size of the basic units of meter, gram and liter consider the following examples.
The standard height of a door handle or knob is 1 meter.

The weight of a penny is 2.5 grams.

Almost everyone is familiar with 2 liter bottles of soda.

The next set of examples illustrates the use of some of the most used prefixes.
Examples:

1 milligram =gram = 0.001 gram, or 1 mg = g = 0.001 gram

1000 mg=1g

1 milliliter=liter=0.001 liter, or 1 mL=L=0.001 L

1,000 mL = 1 L

1 centimeter= meter=0.01 meter, or 1 cm = m = 0.01 m

1 kilogram = 1,000 grams, or 1 kg = 1,000 g

1 kilometer = 1,000 meters, or 1 km = 1000 m

1 kilobyte = 1000 bytes (a byte is a unit used in computers to express the length of a “word”.)

1 megabyte = 1,000,000 bytes = 1000 kilobytes

An adult male is about how tall? A) 175cm B) 175m C) 175mm
The correct answer is A) since he is almost twice the standard height of a door knob, so almost 2 meters, that is almost 200 cm.

Choose the most reasonable weight of a newborn baby:
A) 3.7g B)13L C) 4kg D)0.4m
The correct answer is C) since 3.7g is like a penny, while L measures volume and m is for length.
Conversion Tables
The American system of measurements is based on the English system.
Areas and volumes
Recall that area is measured in squares. One square foot or 1 ft^{2} represents the area covered by a square 1 foot by 1 foot.
1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

Example:
12 square feet = 12 ft^{2} means 12 squares 1 foot by 1 foot. The measure of the area of a rectangle 3 ft by 4 ft is 12 ft^{2} since it can be covered (tiled) with 12 squares each 1 foot by 1 foot.
Volume is measured in cubes. One cubic centimeter or 1 cm^{3} represents the volume that can be covered by a cube 1 cm by 1 cm by 1 cm.
Example: Find the volume of a box 3 cm by 3 cm by 4 cm. The question is, how many cubes 1 cm on a side can be put into this box. 3 cm × 3 cm × 4 cm = 36 cm^{3}.
That is, the box will hold 36 cubes 1cm by 1 cm by 1 cm.
A conversion table could be made for areas and another could be made for volumes. The tables would include facts like 1 ft^{2} = 144 in^{2}, 1 yd^{2} = 9 ft^{2}, 1 m^{2} = 10000 cm^{2}, 1 ft^{3} = 1728 in^{3}, etc.
Fortunately, as shown below, this is not necessary.
This handout will cover one method commonly used in the sciences to convert units. This method uses multiples of “1" in a convenient form.
Examples:

4000 in = ? ft
Notice that 1 ft = 12 in. We write our “1" as so that “in” in 4000 in will cancel.
. notice that the “in” canceled

18 ft = ? in
Notice that 1 ft = 12 in. This time we write our “1” as 12in / 1ft so that the “ft” cancel leaving only “in” as the unit.

2.3 mi = ? in
From the conversion tables on page 4 notice that 1 mi = 5280 ft and 1 ft = 12 in. So we should write our “1” in two different ways _{} and as _{}. Using the first fraction we can convert miles into feet, while using the second fraction we can further convert the feet into inches. Combining these two we have the following:
notice that the “mi” and the“ft” cancel

146000 cm = ? km
Just like in the previous example we don’t have a direct conversion between centimeters (cm) and kilometers (km). However, both are connected through meters (m). Therefore, we will use the “1” in two different ways: _{} and _{}. Using both, we get the following:
notice that the “cm” and the “m” cancel

1,000,000 fl oz = ? gal
From the conversion tables on page 4, we see that _{}, _{} and _{}. We have to combine all three of these conversions to go from fluid ounces to gallons:
notice that the “fl oz”, the “pt”, and the “qt” cancel

18 ft^{2} = ? yd^{2
}The following is the standard method for handling areas and volumes. The conversion tables on page 4 say that _{}. For square units, we have to use this conversion twice so that “ft^{2}" cancels with “ft∙ft”.^{
}
Another way to obtain the same result is to create a new conversion formula for our specific prupose. Since _{} we immediately have _{} and

1,000,000 mm^{2} = ? km^{2}
This time we will use two conversions 1 m = 1000 mm and 1 km = 1000 m. Each of these two conversion will be used twice, since we are using square units:
Then we continue: . _{}.
notice that “mm^{2}" cancels with “mm mm” in the first row, and “m^{2}” cancels with “m m” in the second row of calculations above.

18 ft^{3} = ? yd^{3}
When dealing with cubic units, we have to apply each conversion formula three times. For example, since _{}, we can apply this conversion three times so that “ft^{3}” cancels with “ft∙ft∙ft”.
Or, as in the example f) above, we can create our own conversion formula and use it directly:

8 mL = ? cc
This is a straight forward conversion, since _{}:

3 L = ? cc
This time we have to use two conversions in a row: 1 L = 1000 mL and 1 mL = 1 cc:

1 m^{3} = ? cc
For cubic units, we use conversion formulas three times:
Alternatively, we can derive our own conversion formula for cubic units. Using _{}, we get.

74 °F = ? °C
C = (F – 32)
C = (74 – 32) °C ≈ 23.3 °C

29 °C = ? °F
F = C + 32
F = [(29) + 32] °F = 84.2 °F
We now look at what is sometimes called compound measures:
miles per hour = mi/hr, ft/sec, lb/ft^{2}, g/cm^{3} etc.
Examples

If a car is traveling 90 mi/hr, how many feet will the car travel in 1 sec? In 5 sec?
A direct way to convert these units is:
Alternatively, we can derive our own conversion formulas separately for miles and for hours: _{} and _{}. We then replace miles with 5280feet and hours with 3600sec. Therefore
In 1 second the car will travel 132 ft. The car will travel (5 sec )(132 ft/sec) = 660 ft. in 5 seconds.

A 90 lb weight is applied to an area 1/4 in by 1/4 inch. This pressure is equivalent to how many tons per ft^{2} ?
We have 90 pounds per (1/4)(1/4) in^{2}. We have [90 lb/(1/16) in^{2}] = 1440 lb/in^{2}.

If a machine produces 225 parts in an 8 hour day, how many minutes will it take to produce 10 parts?
We will first get minutes per part.
The time needed for 10 parts would be (10)(32/15) minutes = 64/3 minutes = 21 minutes.

If a machine produces 225 parts in an 8 hour day, how many parts can it produce in 10 minutes ?
We will first get parts per minute. Notice that we have parts in the numerator since we want parts in the final answer.
In 10 minutes, the machine would produce parts = parts =.

Water is pouring into a plastic box 1 m by 1 m by .3 m at the rate of 125 mL per minute. How long will it take in hours to fill this box?
The volume of the box is 1 m × 1 m × .3 m = .3 m^{3}.
In 1 minute, 125 mL will drip into the box. We will convert mL to cm^{3} to m^{3} and minutes to hours.
133.33 hrs for each m^{3}. It will take (133.33)(.3) hr = 40 hr to fill the box
Homework:
1. 1000 yd = ? in
2. 2000 in = ? ft
3. 1000 in = ? yd
4. 2000 ft = ? in
5. 1000 yd^{2} = ? in^{2}
6. 2000 in^{2} = ? ft^{2}
7 1000 in^{2} = ? yd
8. 2000 ft^{2} = ? in^{2}
9. 1000 yd^{3} = ? in^{3}
10. 2000 in^{3} = ? ft^{3}
11. 1000 in^{3} = ? yd^{3}
12. 2000 ft^{3} = ? in^{3}
13. 1,000,000 mm = ? cm
14. 1,000,000 mg = ? cg
15. 1,000,000 mm = ? m
16. 1,000,000 μg = ? g
17. 1,000,000 mg = ? g
18. 1,000,000 cm = ? m
19. 1,000,000 mL = ? L
20. 1,000,000 μm = ? cm
21. 1,000,000 mm = ? km
22. 1,000,000 cm = ? km
23. 1,000,000 mg = ? kg
24. 1,000,000 g = ? mg
25. 1,000,000 km = ? m
26. 1,000,000 kg = ? g
27. 1,000,000 km = ? cm
28. 1,000,000 mL = ? L
29. 1,000,000 kg = ? mg
30. 1,000,000 cg = ? g
31. 50 mi = ? yd
32. 50 mi = ? in
33. 1,000,000 tons = ? oz.
34. 1,000,000 oz = ? tons
35. 1,000,000 fl. oz. = ? gal
36. 1,000 fl. oz. = ? quarts
37. 42 °F = ? °C
38. 73 °F = ? ° C
39. 12 °C = ? °F
40. 70 °C = ? °F
41. 25 °C = ? °K
42. 300 °K = ? °C
43. 100 ft/sec = ? mi/hr
44. 100 mi / hr = ? ft / sec.
45. 5 gal / min = ? gal/hr
46. 5 pints / min = ? gal / hr
47. 3 g/cm^{3} = ? kg/m^{3}
48. 180 kg / m^{3} = ? g / mm^{3}
49. 200 lb/in^{2} = ? tons/ft^{2}
50. 2.5 tons / ft^{2} = ? lb / in^{2}
51. 100 km/hr = ? m/sec
52. 250 m/min = ? km / hr
53. 100 m/sec = ? km/hr
54. 250 km / hr = ? m / min
55. 2 cc/sec = ? L/hr
56. 2 L / hr = ? cc / min
57. 2 m^{3} = ? L
58. 18 L = ? m^{3}
59. 4 m^{2} = ? ft^{2}
60. 4 ft^{2} = ? m^{2}
61. 9 qt = ? m^{3}
62. 2 m^{3} = ? qt
63. 1,000 kg= ? lbs
64. 35 lbs = ? kg
65. 3.2 mg / mm^{3} = ? oz / in^{3}
66. 5 oz / in^{3} = ? mg / mm
67. A car traveling at a constant speed travels 175 miles in 4 hours. How many minutes will it take for the car to travel 1000 feet ?
68. A car traveling at a constant speed travels 1000 ft in 12 seconds. In miles, how far will this car travel in 4 hours?
69. A car traveling at a constant speed travels 175 miles in 4 hours. How many feet will the car travel in 10 minutes ?
70. A car traveling at a constant speed travels 1000 ft in 12 seconds. How long in hours will it take to travel 175 miles?
71. If a car is traveling 75 miles per hour, how many feet will it travel in 10 seconds ?
72. If a car is traveling 75 kilometers per hour, how many meters will it travel in 10 seconds?
73. A leaky faucet drips at the rate of 1 pint per hour. How many gallons will drip in a 24 hour day?
74. A leaky faucet drips at the rate of 300 mL per hour. How many liters will drip in a 24 hour day?
75. A leaky faucet drips at the rate of 1 pint per hour. How long will it take to fill a 10 gallon container?
76. A leaky faucet drips at the rate of 300 mL per hour. How long will it take to fill a 10 liter container?
77. You wish to give a patient 5 liters of fluid intravenously in 24 hours. If this is done at a constant rate, how many cc must be given per minute?
78. You wish to give a patient 4 liters of fluid in 8 hours. If this is done at a constant rate, how many cc must be given per minute?
79. You are giving a patient 2.5 cc / min of a given solution intravenously. If this continues for 8 hours, how many liters of this solution will you need ?
80. You are giving a patient 3 cc / min of a given solution intravenously. If this is done for 24 hours, how many liters of this solution will you need?
81. A recipe calls for 300 mL water. In the English system, how much water is this?
82. A recipe calls for 3 cups water. In the metric system, how much water is this?
83. A car is traveling 100 km / hr, How many feet does this car travel every second?
84. A car is traveling 100 miles / hour. How many meters does this car travel every second?
85. John has a bicycle whose tires are 27 inches in diameter. If John rides his bike 1 mile, how many revolutions does each tire make?
86. A vehicle has a wheel 15 inches in diameter. If the vehicle travels 2 miles, how many revolutions does the wheel make?
87. 1000 inches is how many meters?
88. 450 millimeters is how many inches?
89. A large block of butter measures 2.3 meters by 3.4 meters by 5 meters. How many tablespoons of butter are in this block?
90. You wish to form a cube formed from 1,000,000 tablespoons of butter. What is the length of a side in meters? feet? inches? (Recall: a cube has length = width = height.)
91. An automatic machine produces 1 part every 2.3 minutes. How many parts are produced in 8 hours if the machine runs constantly?
92. A machine produces 4500 parts in an 8 hour day. In minutes, how long will it take to produce 100 parts?
93. An automatic machine produces 1 part every 2.3 minutes. How long in hours will it take to produce 5000 parts?
94. If a machine produces 435 parts per hour. how many minutes will it take to produce each part?
95. A certain medication recommends that each day a person be given 8 mg for every 100 lbs of weight. John weighs 238 lbs. If his measurements are exact, How many kg of this medication will he take in
365 days?
96. A certain medication recommends that each day a person be given 8 mg for every 100 lbs of weight. If 10,000 people take this medication each day and their average weight is 180 lbs, how many kilograms of this drug are used daily?
