Ton a cargo weight for most pallet, is the name of any one of several units of measure. It has a long history and has acquired several meanings and uses.
Mainly it describes units of mass. Confusion can arise because ton can mean
- the long ton, which is 2,240 pounds (1016.05 kg)
- the short ton, which is 2,000 pounds (907.18 kg)
- the tonne, also called the metric ton, which is 1,000 kilograms or 1 megagram.
Its original use as a measurement of volume has continued in the capacity of cargo ships and in terms such as the freight ton and a number of other units, ranging from 35 to 100 cubic feet (0.99 to 2.83 m3) in capacity. Recent specialized uses include the ton as a measure of energy and as a means of truck classification. It can also be used as a unit of energy, or in refrigeration as a unit of power, sometimes called a ton of refrigeration.
Because the ton (of any system of measuring weight) is usually the heaviest unit named in colloquial speech, its name also has figurative uses, singular and plural, informally meaning a large amount or quantity, or to a great degree, as in “There’s a ton of bees in this hive”, “We have tons of homework”, and “I love you a ton.”
Other units of mass/weight
- Deadweight ton (abbreviation ‘DWT’ or ‘dwt’) is a measure of a ship’s carrying capacity, including bunker oil, fresh water, ballast water, crew and provisions. It is expressed in tonnes (1,000 kg) or long tons (2,240 pounds (1,016 kg)). This measurement is also used in the U.S. tonnage of naval ships.
- Increasingly, tonnes are being used rather than long tons in measuring the displacement of ships.
- Harbour ton, used in South Africa in the 20th century, was equivalent to 2,000 pounds or one short ton.
Assay ton (abbreviation ‘AT’) is not a unit of measurement but a standard quantity used in assaying ores of precious metals. A short assay ton is 29+1⁄6 grams while a long assay ton is 32+2⁄3 gram. These amounts bear the same ratio to a milligram as a short or long ton bears to a troy ounce. Therefore, the number of milligrams of a particular metal found in a sample weighing one assay ton gives the number of troy ounces of metal contained in a ton of ore.
In documents that predate 1960 the word ton is sometimes spelled tonne, but in more recent documents tonne refers exclusively to the metric ton.
In nuclear power plants, tHM and MTHM mean tonnes of heavy metals, and MTU means tonnes of uranium. In the steel industry, the abbreviation THM means ‘tons/tonnes hot metal’, which refers to the amount of liquid iron or steel that is produced, particularly in the context of blast furnace production or specific consumption.
A dry ton or dry tonne has the same mass value, but the material (sludge, slurries, compost, and similar mixtures in which solid material is soaked with or suspended in water) has been dried to a relatively low, consistent moisture level (dry weight). If the material is in its natural, wet state, it is called a wet ton or wet tonne.
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Units of mass/weight
There are several similar units of mass or volume called the ton.
|Full name(s)||Common name||Quantity||Notes|
|long ton||ton||2,240 lb (1,016.0469 kg)||Used in countries such as the United Kingdom and Commonwealth of Nations that formerly used, or still use the Imperial system|
|short ton||ton||2,000 lb (907.18474 kg)||Used in the United States and in some industries in Canada|
|tonne; equivalent to megagram||“tonne”;”metric ton”||1,000 kg (2,204.6226 lb)||Defined in the International System of Units. Used worldwide.|
|shortweight ton||2,240 lb||Used in the iron industry in the 17th and 18th centuries.|
|longweight ton||2,400 lb||Used in the iron industry in the 17th and 18th centuries.|
Where precision is required the correct term should be used, as the difference between the short ton and the other common forms (“long” and “metric”) is about 10%. However, when comparing between the metric and long tons, precision may not be as necessary as they differ by only 1.6%.
The metric tonne is usually distinguished by its spelling when written, but in the US and UK it is pronounced the same as ton, hence is often spoken as “metric ton” when it is necessary to make the distinction. In the UK the final “e” of “tonne” can also be pronounced]. In Australia, it is pronounced /tɒn/.
In the United Kingdom, the (Imperial) ton is a statute measure, defined as 2,240 pounds (about 1,016 kg).
In the United States and Canada, a ton is defined to be 2,000 pounds (907.18474 kg).
Units of energy and power
Ton of TNT
- A ton of TNT or tonne of TNT is a unit of energy equal to 10 (thermochemical) calories, also known as a gigacalorie (Gcal), equal to 4.184 gigajoules (GJ).
- A kiloton of TNT or kilotonne of TNT is a unit of energy equal to 10 calories, also known as a teracalorie (Tcal), equal to 4.184 terajoules (TJ).
- A megaton of TNT (1,000,000 tonnes) or megatonne of TNT is a unit of energy equal to 10 calories, also known (infrequently) as a petacalorie (Pcal), equal to 4.184 petajoules (PJ).
Note that these are small calories (cal). The large or dietary calorie (Cal) is equal to one kilocalorie (kcal), and is gradually being replaced by the latter correct term.
Early values for the explosive energy released by trinitrotoluene (TNT) ranged from 900 to 1100 calories per gram. In order to standardize the use of the term TNT as a unit of energy, an arbitrary value was assigned based on 1,000 calories (1 kcal or 4.184 kJ) per gram. Thus there is no longer a direct connection to the chemical TNT itself. It is now merely a unit of energy that happens to be expressed using words normally associated with mass (e.g., kilogram, tonne, pound). The definition applies for both spellings: ton of TNT and tonne of TNT.
Measurements in tons of TNT have been used primarily to express nuclear weapon yields, though they have also been used since in seismology as well.
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