The ton is a unit of measure. It has a long history and has acquired a number of meanings and uses over the years. It is used principally as a unit of mass. Its original use as a measurement of volume has continued in the capacity of cargo ships and in terms such as the freight ton. Recent specialised uses include the ton as a measure of energy and for truck classification. It is also a colloquial term.
It is derived from the tun, the term applied to a cask of the largest capacity. This could contain a volume between 175 and 213 imperial gallons (210 and 256 US gal; 800 and 970 l), which could weigh around 2,000 pounds (910 kg) and occupy some 60 cubic feet (1.7 m3) of space.
In the United Kingdom, the (Imperial) ton is Statute measure, defined as 2,240 lb (1,016 kg)[a]From 1965, the UK embarked upon a program of metrication and gradually introduced metric units, including the tonne (metric ton), defined as 1,000 kg (2,205 lb). The UK Weights and Measures Act 1985 explicitly excluded many units and terms from "use for trade", including the ton (and the term "metric ton" for "tonne").
In the United States and Canada,a ton is defined to be 2,000 pounds (907 kg).
Where confusion is possible, the 2240 lb ton is called "long ton" and the 2000 lb ton "short ton"; the tonne is distinguished by its spelling, but usually pronounced the same as ton, hence the US term "metric ton". In the UK the final "e" of "tonne" can also be pronounced (/ˈtʌni/),or "metric ton" when it is necessary to make the distinction.
Where precision is required the correct term must be used, but for many purposes this is not necessary: the metric and long tons differ by only 1.6%, and the short ton is within 11% of both. The ton (any definition) is the heaviest unit of weight typically used in colloquial speech.
In refrigeration, a ton is a unit of power, sometimes called a ton of refrigeration. It is the power required to melt or freeze one short ton of ice per day. The refrigeration ton hour is a unit of energy, the energy required to melt or freeze 1⁄24 short ton of ice.
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