Chemistry - What is the correct value of the Avogadro constant? And how was it derived?

Solution 1:

Whenever you're looking for accurate fundamental physical constants, CODATA recommended values are the way to go. As of May 20, 2019, Avogadro's constant is now truly an exact value, with infinite significant digits. Behold!

$$6.022\,140\,76\times10^{23}\ \mathrm{mol^{-1}}$$

It is unlikely this value will change within our lifetimes, which is exciting in its own way!

For historical reasons, I'll leave my previous answer below:

As of 2015, the latest data for the Avogadro constant is from 2014. According to CODATA, the most accurate value is:

$$6.022\,140\,857\times10^{23}\ \mathrm{mol^{-1}}\pm0.000\,000\,074\times10^{23}\ \mathrm{mol^{-1}}\quad\text{(CODATA 2014)}$$

The relative uncertainty in the measurement is thus only 12 parts per billion!

Interestingly, the Avogadro constant may be redefined in the near future to be an exact value, that is, a constant with zero uncertainty by definition, much like the speed of light. This would come as a consequence of redefining the SI kilogram as a function of the number of atoms in an ultrapure monoisotopic $\ce{^{28}Si}$ monocrystalline sphere engineered to extreme precision. A great video on this can be found in the Veritasium YouTube channel.

All that said, I suspect you don't really have to care which constant should be used. All the suggested values differ by one part in a million, which makes essentially no difference for most chemistry.

Edit: As pointed out by Loong in the comments, a few weeks after writing this answer, CODATA released updated values for the physical constants, so I updated this answer for accuracy. The next set of updated values will likely be announced in 2018-2019. For comparison, the previous value was:

$$6.022\,141\,29\times10^{23}\ \mathrm{mol^{-1}}\pm0.000\,000\,27\times10^{23}\ \mathrm{mol^{-1}}\quad\text{(CODATA 2010)}$$

This represents an uncertainty of 44 parts per billion. This means the uncertainty in the measurement has been cut to almost a fourth of its previous value in four years. Go science!

Solution 2:

A new definition of Avogadro's constant will replace the current one soon (emphasis mine):

The mole, symbol mol, is the SI unit of amount of substance. One mole contains exactly $\pu{6.02214076 \times 10^{23}}$ elementary entities. This number is the fixed numerical value of the Avogadro constant, N$_\text{A}$, when expressed in mol$^{-1}$, and is called the Avogadro number.

This makes Avogadro number a fixed integer. The new definition was published on 8 January 2018 as an IUPAC Recommendation in Pure and Applied Chemistry, which is available online.

It has yet to be approved by CGPM (expected November 2018), but "the revised definitions are expected to come into force on World Metrology Day, 20 May 2019" (thanks R.M.!).