Atomic mass unit
|Unified atomic mass unit|
|Symbol||u or Da|
|1 u or Da in ...||... is equal to ...|
The unified atomic mass unit or dalton (symbol: u, or Da) is a standard
The atomic mass unit (amu) without the "unified" prefix is technically an obsolete unit based on oxygen, which was replaced in 1961. However, many sources still use the term amu but now define it in the same way as u (i.e., based on carbon-12). In this sense, most uses of the terms atomic mass units and amu, today, actually refer to unified atomic mass unit. For standardization, a specific atomic nucleus (
The discovery of isotopic oxygen in 1929 led to a divergence in relative atomic mass representation, with isotopically weighted oxygen (i.e., naturally occurring oxygen relative atomic mass) given a value of exactly 16 atomic mass units (amu) in chemistry, while pure 16O (oxygen-16) was given the mass value of exactly 16 amu in physics.
The divergence of these values could result in errors in computations, and was unwieldy. The chemistry amu, based on the relative atomic mass (atomic weight) of natural oxygen (including the heavy naturally-occurring isotopes 17O and 18O), was about 282 as massive as the physics amu, based on pure isotopic 16O. 1.000
For these and other reasons, the reference standard for both physics and chemistry was changed to
Despite this change, modern sources often still use the old term "amu" but define it as u (1/ of the mass of a carbon-12 atom), as mentioned in the article's introduction. Therefore, in general, "amu" likely does not refer to the old oxygen standard unit, unless the source material originates from the 1960s or before.