# What is absolute pressure? (with photo)

Absolute pressure is the sum of atmospheric pressure, which can be measured using a manometer, and the gauge pressure of the fluid.

In engineering, absolute pressure is the pressure of a system relative to the pressure of an absolute vacuum. In more practical terms, it is often expressed as the sum of the pressure of the atmosphere and the gauge pressure of a fluid. It is needed in engineering calculations like the Ideal Gas Law.

The most common expression of absolute pressure defines it as the sum of the gauge, or gauge, pressure of a system and atmospheric pressure. The expression takes the form P absolute = P gauge + P atmospheric . Atmospheric pressure is defined as the pressure of the surrounding air at or near the Earth’s surface. This pressure is not a fixed or constant value and may vary with temperature or elevation.

Gauge pressure represents the system pressure measured by a pressure measuring device. These devices, or gauges, can be classified by how they measure pressure. The most common types are elastic element meters, liquid column meters and electrical meters. Unless otherwise noted by the manufacturer, most gauges do not include atmospheric pressure in their readings.

In a typical chemical plant environment, absolute pressure and gauge pressure do not represent the same thing and different notations must be used to keep them separate. A common method of doing this is to add the letter a after the pressure unit to signify absolute pressure and the letter g after the pressure unit to signify gauge pressure. For example, an absolute pressure of 100 psi would become 100 psia. Likewise, a gauge pressure of 5 kPa would be 5 kPag. The US National Institute of Standards and Technology, however, prefers the letter clarifying to be applied not to the unit, but to the letter P. For example, P g = 25 kPa would be preferable to P = 25 kPag.