A standard is physical representation of a unit of measurement. A known accurate measure of physical quantity is termed as a standard. These standards are used to determine the values of other physical quantities by the comparison method.

In fact, a unit is realized by reference to a material standard or to natural phenomena, including physical and atomic constants. For example, the fundamental unit of length in the International system (SI) is the meter, defined as the distance between two fine lines engraved on gold plugs near the ends of a platinum-iridium alloy at 0°C and mechanically supported in a prescribed manner.

Similarly, different standards have been developed for other units of measurement (including fundamental units as well as derived mechanical and electrical units). All these standards are preserved at the International Bureau of Weight and Measures at Sevres, Paris.

Also, depending on the functions and applications, different types of “standards of measurement” are classified in categories (i) international, (ii) primary, (iii) secondary, and (iv) working standards.

International Standards

International standards are defined by International agreement. They are periodically evaluated and checked by absolute measurements in terms of fundamental units of Physics. They represent certain units of measurement to the closest possible accuracy attainable by the science and technology of measurement. These International standards are not available to ordinary users for measurements and calibrations.

International ohms

It is defined as the resistance offered by a column of mercury having a mass of 14.4521 gms, uniform cross-sectional area and length of 106.300 cm, to the flow of constant current at the melting point of ice.

International amperes

It is an unvarying current, which when passed through a solution of silver nitrate in water (prepared in accordance with stipulated specifications) deposits silver at the rate of 0.00111800 gm/s.

Absolute units

International units were replaced in 1948 by absolute units. These units are more accurate than International units, and differ slightly from them. For example,

1 International ohm = 1.00049 Absolute ohm

1 International ampere = 0.99985 Absolute ampere

Primary Standards

The principle function of primary standards is the calibration and verification of secondary standards. Primary standards are maintained at the National Standards Laboratories in different countries.

The primary standards are not available for use outside the National Laboratory. These primary standards are absolute standards of high accuracy that can be used as ultimate reference standards.

Secondary Standards

Secondary standards are basic reference standards used by measurement and calibration laboratories in industries. These secondary standards are maintained by the particular industry to which they belong. Each industry has its own secondary standard. Each laboratory periodically sends its secondary standard to the National standards laboratory for calibration and comparison against the primary standard. After comparison and calibration, the National Standards Laboratory returns the Secondary standards to the particular industrial laboratory with a certification of measuring accuracy in terms of a primary stan-dard.

Working Standards

Working standards are the principal tools of a measurement laboratory. These standards are used to check and calibrate laboratory instrument for accuracy and performance. For example, manufacturers of electronic components such as capacitors, resistors, etc. use a standard called a working standard for checking the component values being manufactured, e.g. a standard resistor for checking of resistance value manufactured.


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