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Naval Warfare Center Celebrates World Metrology Day

By Naval Surface Warfare Center Corona Public Affairs | NSWC Corona | June 6, 2019

NORCO, Calif. — Naval Surface Warfare Center Corona commemorated World Metrology Day May 20, celebrating the history of measurement standards that have supported global manufacturing, technology and trade for almost 150 years. The event also highlighted measurement advancements that will result in significant opportunities for the Navy in the future.

World Metrology Day commemorates the signing of The Metre Convention in 1875, the treaty that created the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. Marking its 144th anniversary, this treaty provides the basis for a coherent measurement system used worldwide that plays a central role in scientific discovery and innovation, industrial manufacturing and international trade, as well as improvement of the quality of life and protection of the global environment.

“The original aim of The Metre Convention – the worldwide uniformity of measurement – remains as important today as it was in 1875,” said Rich Schumacher, Measurement Science and Engineering Department Head at NSWC Corona. “Our Navy relies heavily on good metrology to ensure that our systems of communication, weapons and safety work as designed and interoperate across the globe.”

May 20 also marked the day the world transitioned the last measurement standard traced to a physical artifact, the kilogram, in use since 1889. This groundbreaking transformation, called the redefinition of the International System of Units (SI), means the fundamental measurement will no longer be based on a golf-ball size piece of metal containing platinum and iridium housed in France. Instead, the kilogram measurement will be based on Planck's constant, a quantity that relates a light particle’s energy to its frequency. This transformation can dramatically improve the accuracy, consistency, and reliability of measurements. Moving forward, the entire system of measurements will be based on constants that do not change.

For the Navy, where millions of measurements are made every year in support of research, test, operation and maintenance, this advancement significantly improves the ability to design, produce, operate and sustain better, more accurate, reliable and efficient systems. Ensuring the Navy’s measurements are accurate begins with the proper calibration of test instruments. This test equipment is used to verify and maintain the performance of these systems and is routinely recalled to calibration laboratories such as those operated at NSWC Corona. A calibration lab compares test equipment to a more accurate device and is then either adjusted, aligned, repaired, de-rated or returned to service. The calibration of the Navy's test equipment ensures an unbroken chain of inter-comparisons through National Standards maintained at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to the SI, providing confidence in the measurements and reducing the probability of inaccurate measurement decisions.

“So it is fitting that today, World Metrology Day, we recognize the significance of the transition to the new SI, and the benefit that it presents to the Navy and to mankind,” said Bob Fritzsche, METCAL chief engineer at NSWC Corona.

More than 100 attended the celebration held in front of the command’s documented descendant of Newton’s apple tree, the legendary tree that inspired Sir Isaac Newton to discover the universal law of gravity and a symbol of the importance Newton’s work plays in NSWC Corona’s daily metrology practices. The tree was a gift from the National Bureau of Standards, now NIST. Since the National Bureau of Standards established NSWC Corona’s first technical mission in 1951, the command has a rich legacy with national and international standards. This is carried forward today with NSWC Corona serving as the Navy and Marine Corps’ metrology and calibration technical advisor and the close working relationships Corona maintains with NIST.

The historical connection between the two organizations is being rekindled in a significant way.

Work is currently underway at NIST and with industry and academia to develop quantum-based standards in all measurement disciplines, including pressure/vacuum, temperature, humidity/moisture, radiometry, RF/microwave power and laser power.

NSWC Corona is partnering with NIST to help direct the research objectives and drive these disruptive technologies into current and future Navy systems. While many of the technology efforts are in the early stages of research, progress in some of the areas has already borne fruit, such as with the radiation pressure power meter (RPPM). NIST developed the RPPM to measure the power of a high energy laser and its measurement uncertainty is significantly better than the laser calorimeter method used previously.

“Integration of these technologies into naval systems offers the Navy an opportunity to make more accurate and more reliable measurements on those systems in support of testing and operation,” said Fritzsche. “It also offers an opportunity to significantly reduce the burden on the Sailor and shore infrastructure for calibration of the measurement systems.”

NSWC Corona’s efforts to drive the development and implementation of quantum-based standards will result in increased readiness and lethality for the Fleet while sustaining a culture of affordability, a critical component of the Naval Sea Systems Command’s strategic framework to expand the advantage of the military against all competitors.