Wednesday, October 9, 2013


A barn (symbol b) is a unit of area. Originally used in nuclear physics for expressing the cross sectional area of nuclei and nuclear reactions, today it is used in all fields of high energy physics to express the cross sections of any scattering process. A barn is defined as 10 m2 (100 fm) and is approximately the cross sectional area of a uranium nucleus. The barn is also the unit of area used in nuclear quadrupole resonance and nuclear magnetic resonance to quantify the interaction of a nucleus with an electric field gradient. While the barn is not an SI unit, it is accepted for use with the SI due to its continued use in particle physics. It is one of the very few units which are accepted to be used with SI units, and one of the most recent units to have been established (cf. the knot and the bar, other non-SI units acceptable in limited circumstances).

Two related units are the outhouse (10−34 m, or 1 μb) and the shed (10−52 m, or 1 yb), although these are rarely used in practice.

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