Enverter – Dimensional Analysis and Unit Conversion Software for Engineering and Scientific Calculations

Enverter – Dimensional Analysis and Unit Conversion Software for Engineering and Scientific Calculations

Guest Post by Prasad Dixit Founder, Lead Engineer, and CEO at Dixit Systems.

In engineering and science, dimensional analysis is the analysis of the relationships between different physical quantities by identifying their base quantities (such as length, mass, time, and electric charge) and units of measure (such as miles vs. kilometers, or pounds vs. kilograms) and tracking these dimensions as calculations or comparisons are performed. (Source : Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimensional_analysis)

Why we developed Enverter?

I grew up in India with Metric system. When you grow up with one-unit system, you internalize it. For example, you develop a good sense of how long 25 cms is or how 30 deg Celsius actually feels like on your skin.

When I came to US in 2006 at age of 24, it took some time to get accustomed to Pounds/Gallons/Miles/Fahrenheit and its imperial unit system in general. As of today, after almost 15 years, I still struggle with it. I often convert temperature from Fahrenheit to Celsius to get a feel of how hot to cold it is.

Actually, it bugged me enough that I ended up writing a unit conversion App that is free for anyone to use on the website. The idea behind it was that if I have this problem, there must be other people who are struggling with it.

A 1904 engraving plaque indicating the standard meter in the Petit Luxembourg in Paris. Standardized metric units were adopted during the French Revolution. Credit: NY Times – https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/18/science/foot-surveying-metrology-dennis.html

Why unit conversion is a serious matter in engineering design?

Dimensional Analysis and Unit Conversion is an integral part of Engineering and design calculations, so much so, that it is often done without realizing we are doing it. However, failing to give unit conversion calculations its due attention can have profoundly serious consequences – not only financial but also those that leads to fatal accidents.

Let me give you some examples

Unit conversion blunder example #1

On September 23, 1999, $125,000,000 Mars Climate Orbiter entered Mar’s atmosphere 169 km lower than planned and was destroyed by heat.

Image Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)

NASA engineer mistook the conversion factor as 1 lb = 1 Newton

Pound (lb) is English unit of force. 1 lb = 4.45 N

Force can be defined as:

Force = Mass x Acceleration
= 0.454 kg * 9.81 m/s2     (1 lb = 0.454 kg)
= 4.45 kg.m/s2
= 4.45 N ( 1 N = 1 kg.m/s2)

This $125 million catastrophic event could have been averted with a more careful dimensional analysis and unit conversion.

Can you imagine yourself to be that NASA engineer? It is a terrifying thought!


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