Coulomb constant

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Value of k Units
8.9875517923(14)×109 N·m2/C2
14.3996 eV·Å·e−2
10−7 (N·s2/C2)c2

The Coulomb constant, the electric force constant, or the electrostatic constant (denoted ke, k or K) is a proportionality constant in electrostatics equations. In SI units it is equal to 8.9875517923(14)×109 kg⋅m3⋅s−2⋅C−2.[1] It was named after the French physicist Charles-Augustin de Coulomb (1736–1806) who introduced Coulomb's law.[2][3]

Value of the constant[edit]

The Coulomb constant is the constant of proportionality in Coulomb's law,

where êr is a unit vector in the r-direction.[4] In SI:

where is the vacuum permittivity. This formula can be derived from Gauss' law,


Taking this integral for a sphere, radius r, centered on a point charge, the electric field points radially outwards and is normal to a differential surface element on the sphere with constant magnitude for all points on the sphere.


Noting that E = F/q for some test charge q,

Coulomb's law is an Inverse Square Law, and thereby similar to many other scientific laws ranging from gravitational pull to light attenuation. This law states that a specified physical quantity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance.

In some modern systems of units, the Coulomb constant ke has an exact numeric value; in Gaussian units ke = 1, in Lorentz–Heaviside units (also called rationalized) ke = 1/. This was previously true in SI when the vacuum permeability was defined as μ0 = 4π×107 H⋅m−1. Together with the speed of light in vacuum c, defined as 299792458 m/s, the vacuum permittivity ε0 can be written as 1/μ0c2, which gave an exact value of[5]

Since the redefinition of SI base units,[6][7] the Coulomb constant is no longer exactly defined and is subject to the measurement error in the fine structure constant, as calculated from CODATA 2018 recommended values being[1]


The Coulomb constant is used in many electric equations, although it is sometimes expressed as the following product of the vacuum permittivity constant:

The Coulomb constant appears in many expressions including the following:

Coulomb's law
Electric potential energy
Electric field

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Derived from ke = 1/(4πε0) – "2018 CODATA Value: vacuum electric permittivity". The NIST Reference on Constants, Units, and Uncertainty. NIST. 20 May 2019. Retrieved 2019-05-20.
  2. ^ Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Coulomb". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  3. ^ Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Charles-Augustin de Coulomb". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  4. ^ Tomilin, K. (1999). "Fine-structure constant and dimension analysis". European Journal of Physics. 20 (5): L39–L40. Bibcode:1999EJPh...20L..39T. doi:10.1088/0143-0807/20/5/404.
  5. ^ Coulomb's constant, HyperPhysics
  6. ^ BIPM statement: Information for users about the proposed revision of the SI (PDF)
  7. ^ "Decision CIPM/105-13 (October 2016)". The day is the 144th anniversary of the Metre Convention.