World Metrology Day - 20 May 2020

This year marks the 145th anniversary of the signing of the Metre Convention on 20 May 1875.

Every year on this date, the measurement community celebrates World Metrology Day. Last year, 20 May 2019 was a particularly momentous celebration, as some of the 7 base units that form the international system of units (SI) – governing measurements around the world - were linked to fundamental universal constants for the first time. 

This year, the focus of World Metrology Day is measurements for global trade. Special messages related to this topic, as well as the current coronavirus crisis, have been posted by presidents of the International Committee for Weights and Measures (CIPM) and the International Committee of Legal Metrology (CIML) - along with a joint message from the presidents of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) and the International Bureau of Legal Metrology (BIML).

These messages not only talk about the importance of metrology for international trade – in 2018, around 80% of the 20 trillion dollars in trade was affected by metrological standards & regulation alone – but also for scientific discovery and innovation, industrial manufacturing, improving the quality of life and protecting the environment.

EURAMET activities


The aforementioned areas are also central to EURAMET’s European Metrology Research Programmes, EMRP and EMPIR, programmes and projects, and over 145 case studies have been generated covering the positive impact that metrology research has had on all aspects of European life; from industry, energy, health, and the environment, to the development of new standards or new technologies.

Some of these projects have also led to advances in trade - affecting the diamond industry, diversifying Europe’s energy supply and future-proofing European gas networks - whilst others have supported promising new technologies with the development of metrology like new standards for solar power.

To learn more about how EURAMET EMRP and EMPIR projects have helped Europe in a range of other areas, please see the list below:


Supporting innovative technologies through fundamental research

Novel computer transistors

In 1965, Gordon Moore famously predicted that the processing power of computers would increase with the doubling of transistor density every two years. Many experts now believe “Moore's Law” hit its physical and economical limitations in 2017 and has slowed since then. The EURAMET project Novel electronic devices based on control of strain at the nanoscale  has worked to address this challenge using nanoscale electronic devices made from piezoelectric materials. Project efforts have led to the development of unique and world-leading facilities for characterising these materials, which are now available for use by researchers worldwide.


Atom thin layers as new portable standards


Electricity plays a key role in human life and the measurement of electrical resistance is currently linked to quantum standards that are only available at select National Measurement Institutes (NMIs). These require periodic calibrations to secondary standards for the use outside these institutions – a procedure that often leads to a loss of measurement accuracy, as well as time and money.

The EURAMET project Quantum resistance metrology based on graphene  explored the use of this wonder material as a novel, portable, quantum standard that may lead to a simpler – and cheaper – system for electrical measurements.


Metrology for Advanced Manufacturing

Keeping industrial secrets – secret

The internet used to be just for computers, but it is now expanding to incorporate elements such as security systems, cars and even household appliances. All of these need to be able to communicate with each other – but how can we be sure that what these internet-based appliances are saying to each other, or indeed to human beings, is secure?

The EURAMET project Metrology for Industrial Quantum Communication technologies has developed a suite of new measurement technologies to characterise and validate the performance of components for Quantum Key Technology systems – using quantum “entanglement” to encrypt and maintain the security of Europe’s data and internet communication technologies.


Making small measurements in large spaces


Making an aircraft carrier or the latest particle accelerator requires not only that all the components fit together correctly, but also that it must be possible to assemble them in situ. Large constructions projects can often go hand in hand with large production costs.

The EURAMET project Large Volume Metrology in Industry successfully tackled the most critical needs expressed by a range of users of such Large Volume Metrology (LVM), developing new prototype measurement instruments. In the future, these instruments will aid the construction of machinery such as the successor to the Large Hadron Collider - which will be the largest machine ever built.


Powering the future

Juggling our resources

Large scale public energy production originated with the building of the first coal power plant in the latter half of the 19th century. Today, almost one-third of electricity in Europe comes from an array of renewable energy sources, including wind, water and sunlight.

However, integrating the variable supply from these non-traditional forms of energy into existing electricity networks is problematic. The EURAMET project Metrology for Smart Electrical Grids  enabled the work of 60 scientists, electricity grid operators and instrumentation manufacturers to develop new modelling, simulation, and network analysis tools to assess the system state of these smart grids. These instruments’ utilities will make it easier to use renewable energy sources in future societies.


The measure of power


'Smart grids' are being increasingly used to manage renewable and non-conventional energy from a multitude of sources. However, many older grids are still using instrumentation that is not designed for power from these variable sources.

The EURAMET project FutureGrid II Metrology for the next-generation digital substation instrumentation has developed new means to calibrate digital and non-conventional voltage and current transformers, and can now offer calibration services to manufacturers for the demonstration of product performance.


Measurements for improved healthcare

Non-invasive measurements for health

As we grow older the chances of contracting diseases such as cancer increase - and early diagnosis leads to better treatment outcomes. Therefore, measuring early changes between healthy and disease states is a vital step. Small cell-derived fragments termed 'microvesicles', or MVs, present in human body fluids like urine could be used as 'biomarkers' to indicate the presence of disease, but the measurement results for MVs is incomparable between different instruments and laboratories.

The EURAMET project Metrological characterisation of microvesicles from body fluids as non-invasive diagnostic biomarkers  developed novel reference materials to improve standardisation of MV measurements and went on to standardise a way of isolating them with an improved concentration comparability, a giant step towards using these tiny cell fragments for the detection of disease.


Making implants safer


Around 1/5th of all adults in developed countries have an implanted medical device and that fraction is increasing as the population ages. World-wide, over 1 billion medical devices are implanted in patients each year and whilst many of these are short term implants over 30 million of these are permanent. Ensuring that these are free from infection and have been manufactured correctly is vital for patient health.

The EURAMET project Chemical metrology tools to support the manufacture of advanced biomaterials in the medical device industry, investigated a number of techniques such as X-ray photo-electron spectroscopy (XPS) and Time of Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (ToF SIMS) to characterise the distribution of molecular structures near the implant’s surface. A medical implant manufacture has since used the methods developed in this project to confirm sterility in their products.


Protecting and understanding the environment

Linking the remote together

Climate change is now an undeniable fact and some of the largest effects are in some of the most remote places on the planet such as the poles. A world-wide network of monitoring stations exist to monitor potential changes, often in harsh or isolated locations. These stations are vital for providing the high-quality data used in climate models to predict future trends.

The EURAMET project Metrology for pressure, temperature, humidity and airspeed in the atmosphere  developed a novel portable calibration chamber for temperature, humidity and pressure known as EDIE (Earth Direct Investigation Experiment). This device can allow remote monitoring stations to easily compare their sensors against reference instruments directly traceable to national standards, a process which would previously have been extremely challenging or even impossible.


It’s all up in the air


Greenhouse gasses have been identified as some of the main drivers for climate change but the type and composition of these in the Earth’s air is very much a measurement issue. One way of measuring the presence of gasses is from their unique spectral ‘fingerprints’ in the atmosphere.

The EURAMET projectSpectral reference data for atmospheric monitoring  enabled the development and commissioning of a new measurement facility capable of generating greenhouse gas spectral line data from these fingerprints which has been a significant contribution to those researchers working in this field, such as TCCON, a network of 23 ground-based atmospheric monitoring stations distributed across the globe, which provide performance validation to satellite-borne spectral instruments.


EMPIR projects are co-funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the EMPIR Participating States.

EMRP joint research projects are part of EURAMET’s European Metrology Research Programme. The EMRP has been jointly funded by the EMRP participating countries within EURAMET and the European Union.

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European activities for World Metrology day


As World Metrology Day has fallen on a time of lockdown for most of Europe, the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in the UK has focused on providing a range of home-based measurement based activities including weekly challenges, such as 'Invent a unit'.

The Italian NMI, INRIM, is hosting a number of interview, talks and videos from 20 - 22 May to mark the occasion

The BIPM and OMIL World Metrology Day website collects planned activities from metrology institutes around the World to mark this date. 

See the video below to hear from the CIPM President (Dr Wynand Louw) on World Metrology Day 2020.


A World Metrology Day message from the BIPM and BIML Directors (presented by Dr Martin Milton):



For more information about other 2020 World Metrology Day initiatives taking place across Europe, please see the links below:
Bulgaria (BIM)
Slovenia (MIRS)
Spain (CEM)