A kilogram isn’t what it used to be. Literally. The original name for it was the ‘grave’, proposed in 1793 but it fell victim to the French Revolution like its creator, Lavoisier. So begins the tale of the most unusual SI unit.
The kilogram is the only base unit with a prefix in its name, and the only one still defined by a physical artifact, the international prototype kilogram or IPK.
But the problem with this definition has long been apparent. The IPK doesn’t seem to maintain its mass compared to 40 similar cylinders minted at the same time.
The goal is therefore to eliminate the kilogram’s dependence on a physical object. Two main approaches are being considered to achieve this end: the Avogadro Project and the Watt Balance.