National Physical Laboratory

Heating up the standards

Development of new high temperature standards can lead to greater energy efficiency for industrial processes and give a better understanding of climate change.

Heating up the standards
A high temperature reference - the intensity of the light
emitted from the furnace is a fixed quantity and allows
calibration of both radiation thermometers and detectors

The Challenge

High-temperature industrial processing in the UK uses the energy equivalent of 120 million barrels of oil per annum. At temperatures below 1350 K reference standards are available to provide known points against which instruments can be checked to improve efficiency and save energy. However there are no internationally agreed high temperature references that are sufficiently well understood to be of use. Such standards are required in order to aid efficient operation and improve product yield of industrial processes at higher temperatures.

The Solution

In the last few years standards (fixed-points) based on the melting temperature of particular alloys of metals and carbon have made improvements at temperatures above 1350 K a real possibility. An additional goal is to develop higher temperature standards (over 2800 K) to be used as standards for radiometry. This would improve measurements of the sun and its interaction with the atmosphere and enable us to gain a better understanding of climate change.

NPL is leading a large multi-partner project including major national measurement institutes across the world to turn these new fixed points into high temperature reference standards. This work has, in particular, led to significant staff exchanges in the last four years particularly between NPL and NIM (China) where a third guest worker will join NPL for 6 months beginning in October 2012 to work in this field. This work has recently been strongly endorsed by the European Metrology Research Programme (EMRP) by being part of the 'Implementing the new kelvin' ( or 'InK' for short) project, which was ranked first of all projects selected from the 2011 SI call.

The high temperature fixed point work in the InK project over the next three years will focus on three specific types of high temperature fixed point, at a range of temperatures, up to about 2800 K. Primary radiometry will be used to determine their thermodynamic temperatures. Once this is achieved in 2015, it is anticipated that the measured temperatures of these fixed-points will be endorsed by Consultative Committee for Thermometry at which point they will become reference standards available for the realisation and dissemination of thermodynamic temperature.

Do you have a measurement challenge that you'd like NPL's help with? If so, why not apply for NPL's Technology Innovation Fund?

Last Updated: 16 Jan 2014
Created: 6 Jan 2011


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