The kilogram (also kilogramme) is the base unit of mass in the metric system, formally the International System of Units (SI), having the unit symbol kg. It is a widely used measure in science, engineering, and commerce worldwide, and is often simply called a kilo in everyday speech.
The replacement of the International Prototype Kilogram as primary standard was motivated by evidence accumulated over a long period of time that the mass of the IPK and its replicas had been changing; the IPK had diverged from its replicas by approximately 50 micrograms since their manufacture late in the 19th century. This led to several competing efforts to develop measurement technology precise enough to warrant replacing the kilogram artefact with a definition based directly on physical fundamental constants. Physical standard masses such as the IPK and its replicas still serve as secondary standards.
The International Prototype Kilogram was commissioned by the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) under the authority of the Metre Convention (1875), and is in the custody of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) who hold it on behalf of the CGPM. The IPK was rarely used or handled. Copies of the IPK kept by national metrology laboratories around the world were compared with the IPK in 1889, 1948, and 1989 to provide traceability of measurements of mass anywhere in the world back to the IPK.
Prior to the redefinition, the kilogram and several other SI units based on the kilogram were defined by a man-made metal artefact: the Kilogramme des Archives from 1799 to 1889, and the International Prototype Kilogram from 1889 onward.
As part of this project, a variety of very different technologies and approaches were considered and explored over many years. Some of these approaches were based on equipment and procedures that would enable the reproducible production of new, kilogram-mass prototypes on demand (albeit with extraordinary effort) using measurement techniques and material properties that are ultimately based on, or traceable to, physical constants. Others were based on devices that measured either the acceleration or weight of hand-tuned kilogram test masses and which expressed their magnitudes in electrical terms via special components that permit traceability to physical constants. All approaches depend on converting a weight measurement to a mass, and therefore require the precise measurement of the strength of gravity in laboratories. All approaches would have precisely fixed one or more constants of nature at a defined value.