Annual Report 2016

Measurement Standards Laboratory

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Callaghan Innovation’s Measurement Standards Laboratory (MSL) is responsible for providing national measurements, standards and related services in accordance with section 4 of the Measurement Standards Act 1992.

The measurement world is about to change. Currently the kilogram unit is defined solely by the International Prototype Kilogram, a platinum- iridium weight held triple-locked in a vault in Paris and accessible only to a privileged few. The kilogram is the last base unit of the International System of Units to be defined by a physical object, but not for much longer.

From October 2018 the kilogram will be defined in terms of a fundamental constant of nature, known as the Planck constant, and accessible to all — for example via a Kibble (or watt) balance. A Kibble balance is an electromechanical instrument that measures the weight of an object in terms of precisely known standards of electric current and voltage, which together are linked to the Planck constant.

During 2015/16 MSL began developing a Kibble balance that is radically different from and much simpler than existing Kibble balances. Once completed, MSL’s Kibble balance will allow the kilogram to be realised in New Zealand without the need to check its value regularly against a physical kilogram in Paris. MSL is one of only a handful of laboratories working on Kibble balances worldwide. This will help us measure mass in terms of the kilogram more easily and cheaply. Metrology plays a central role in scientific discovery and innovation, industrial manufacturing, international trade and protecting the global environment.

In 2015/16 MSL provided New Zealand with uniform units of measurement and maintained standards of measurement of physical quantities in the following areas:

  • Electricity
  • Temperature and humidity
  • Time and frequency
  • Length
  • Mass and pressure
  • Photometry and radiometry

MSL maintained 182 internationally recognised calibration and measurement capabilities. It also maintained signatory status of the Mutual Recognition Arrangement between international and national metrology institutes and participated in international measurement comparisons MSL supported the development and management of the International System of Units through research and collaborations in the following areas:

  • Advancing the global redefinition of the kilogram.
  • Working with the National Institute of Metrology in China on Johnson noise thermometry for the purpose of measuring Boltzmann’s constant (a global redefinition of the kelvin).
  • Developing a new definition of relative humidity.

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Updated: 22 September 2016