If you're taking a physics or engineering class, then at some point you're going to come across the unit of measurement called a Newton meter.

    Turns out, it's a whole lot more than just a measurement. It helps if you understand torque and joules, which are not quite the same as a Newton, to fully understand what a Newton is.

    This guide will help you grasp what a Newton meter is and how to convert Newton meters (Nm) to other measurements, such as foot-pounds. To save yourself some time, try our Newton Meter conversion calculator.


    What is a newton meter?

    By definition, a Newton meter is the amount of force needed to move one kg of mass, at a rate of 1 meter per second squared.

    At the core of the Newton meter is the Newton. The unit of Newton is named after a famous scientist and philosopher, Sir Isaac Newton.

    It's close cousin, the Newton meter, is similarily used to measure force.

    To truly grasp what a Newton is, you should know a few things about force and momentum. (Skip to: "What is Force and Momentum?")

    What is a newton meter used to measure?

    Newton meters are used to measure force, or Newtons.

    Sometimes Newton meters are used to measure energy, called a joule.

    Another common use for a Newton meter is to measure torque, which is a turning force.

    Newton Meter Scales

    Newton meter scales are most often a cylinder with a spring inside. You can attach objects to the spring with a hook.

    When an object is attached to the spring, it causes a force that makes the spring stretch. The gauge will tell you how much force is acting on the meter.

    What is a newton meter equivalent to?

    A Newton meter is equal to the force of one torque and the force of one Joule for one meter.


    A Joule, named after the scientist James Prescott Joule, is a unit of measurement that is equal to the amount of energy that is transferred when 1 Newton is applied to an object for a length of one meter.

    If you apply a force of one Newton to an object for one meter, then you will be using one Joule of energy.


    If you need to measure the amount of energy needed to rotate an object from a pivot point, then you are applying torque.

    One Newton meter is equal to the amount of torque needed to move an object a distance of 1 meter from the pivot at a right angle to the radius.

    Is a newton meter a joule?

    A lot of people confuse Newtons and Joules but they're not the same thing.

    You can't directly observe the quantity of energy. But you can calculate it by measuring other properties.

    How Is Energy Measured?

    Energy can be measured by the amount of work that is done with a system. Or it can be transferred, such as with heat.

    If you have a mass of one kilogram on a flat surface and you move it, using force, over a distance of one meter, the energy is constant.

    That energy is one Joule, assuming that the initial energy of the object before being moved is zero.


    While the two terms are interrelated, they are not the same. A Joule is the amount of work or energy transferred to an object when you use the force of one Newton to move that object one meter.

    How do you convert newton meters to other units?

    The easiest way to convert Newton meters to other units is by using a conversion calculator.

    Then you can have several variables, including different units for weight, such as a kilogram or pound, and different measurements for distance, including meter or foot.

    If you want to try it on your own, its generally as easily as multiplying by a set ratio. To get a better idea of some common conversion factors, check out the conversion table below.

    How To: Newton Meter to Foot Pound Force

    You would multiply your newton meters by 0.73756 to convert into foot lbf.

    How To: Newton Meter to Dyne Centimeters

    Multiply your newtons by 10,000,000 to get the equivalent in dyne cm.

    Who uses the newton meter?

    If you are in a field where you're using mechanics, engineering or physics, then it's essential that you understand what a Newton meter is.


    It's also a way of understanding the use of common objects like turning a doorknob, so if you're an architect, then you need to know this.

    Automotive Designers

    If you're designing cars, then a Newton meter will come into play when understanding how the tires or steering wheel turns.

    Health Practitioners

    If you're a chiropractor, then you might use Newton meters when discussing how the head turns from side to side.

    It's a part of our everyday lives, and it's a necessity for science.

    What is force and momentum?

    Before getting into force, it's best to start with an understanding of momentum.

    By definition, linear momentum is the mass of an object, times the velocity of that object.

    linear momentum = mass x velocity

    Mass is a quantity, meaning it doesn't have a direction. But velocity does have a direction and magnitude, which makes it a vector.

    That means linear momentum shares those qualities and is also a vector.


    All that jargon just tells us that momentum will always go the in the same path of the velocity.


    According to Newton's second law of motion, when a force acts on an object, that force is equivalent to the rate of linear momentum change of that object.

    Mathematically, the net force is equal to a weight constant, multiplied by the momentum change, divided by time.

      force = mass x velocity / time

    This relates to the behavior of objects when they are subjected to force. It explains that the way an object accelerates is dependant on two main factors.

    These features are:

    • the mass of the object and
    • the net force applied to the object.

    Now, let's dive a little deeper.


    The acceleration of an object inversely depends on its mass.

    So the more mass, the less the acceleration. The acceleration also depends directly on the net force being applied.

    That can sound a bit confusing.


    When the mass of an object increases, it's acceleration decreases. But when you apply more force to an object, the acceleration of that object increases.

    So what's the Newton Meter really measuring?

    A Newton meter measures the amount of force required to accelerate one kilogram of mass, at a rate of 1 meter per second squared.

    For more articles about understanding and calculating terms related to science, check out our full list of physics calculators.

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