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It is very important to maximize the lifetime of wireless sensor networks (WSN) operated on limited power. In order to improve the energy efficiency and prolong the network lifetime, a new clustering algorithm based on the optimum one-hop distance is presented. The relationship among the energy consumption, the device electronic energy and the one-hop transmission distance is analyzed, and then the inverse ratio of the energy consumption increment to the cube of the optimal one-hop distance is gained. So, the clustering algorithm based on the optimal one-hop distance is given to reduce energy consumption. All sensor nodes are divided into different static clusters based on the optimum one-hop distance, and the distance between the fore-and-aft adjacent cluster heads equals or approximates to the optimum one-hop distance, which reduces the energy consumption for inter-cluster communication. At the same time, cluster head acts continuously as local control center and will not be replaced by the candidate cluster head until it almost exhausts its energy supply, which can lessen energy consumption for establishing the new cluster head. Finally, the simulation results demonstrate that the algorithm achieves good effect to prolonging the system lifetime.