Debye
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EditorInChief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]
Overview
The debye (symbol: D) is a nonSI, CGS unit of electrical dipole moment. It is defined as 1×10^{−18} statcoulomb centimeter (or 1×10^{−20} esu m, or 1×10^{−18} Fr cm). In SI units, 1 D equals approximately 3.33564×10^{−30} coulombmeter (exactly 1×10^{−21} C m^{2}/s divided by c, the speed of light in vacuum). Conversely 1 C m = 2.9979×10^{29} D. It is named after the physicist Peter J. W. Debye.
Historically the debye was defined as the dipole moment resulting from two charges of opposite sign but an equal magnitude of 10^{10} statcoulomb (generally called esu in older literature), which were separated by 1 angstrom (10^{8} cm or 10^{10}m).
 Dipole moment is defined:
 1 debye = (10^{10})(10^{8}) statcoulomb centimeter
Note that 10^{10} statcoulomb is 0.48 units of elementary charge.
This gave a convenient unit for molecular dipole moments. Typical dipole moments for simple diatomic molecules are in the range of 0  11D, where symmetric homoatomic species, e.g. chlorine, Cl_{2}, have a dipole moment of 0D and highly ionic molecular species such as gas phase potassium bromide, KBr have a dipole moment of 10.5D.^{[1]}
The debye is still used in atomic physics and chemistry because SI units are inconveniently large, particularly since the smallest prefix is ×10^{−24} (e.g., 2.54 D = 8.47×10^{−6} yCm). Note that SI disallows the application of prefixes to both members of a compound unit (e.g., 2.54 D = 8.47 fC·fm) or the compounding of prefixes (e.g., 2.54 D = 8.47 µyCm), so there is currently no satisfactory solution to this problem of notation.
References
 Atomic unit of electric dipole moment NIST
 CGS units R. Rowlett (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
 ↑ Physical chemistry 2d Edition (1966) G.M. Barrow McGraw Hill