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Measurement, knocking on the “future door” of scientific and technological innovation


Is the electronic scale accurate? Why do water and gas meters occasionally run out of a “huge number”? Navigation while driving how can real-time positioning? Many aspects of daily life are actually related to measurement. May 20 is “World Metrology Day”, metrology is like air, not perceived, but always around people.

Measurement refers to the activity of realizing the unity of units and accurate and reliable quantity value, which is called “measurement and measures” in our history. With the development of production and science and technology, modern metrology has developed into an independent discipline covering length, heat, mechanics, electromagnetism, radio, time frequency, ionizing radiation, optics, acoustics, chemistry and other ten categories, and the definition of metrology has also expanded to the science of measurement and its application.

Metrology developed rapidly with the emergence of the Industrial Revolution, and at the same time supported the continuous progress of industrial production. In the first Industrial Revolution, the measurement of temperature and force led to the development of the steam engine, which in turn accelerated the need for temperature and pressure measurement. The second industrial revolution is represented by the wide application of electricity, the measurement of electrical indicators accelerated the study of electrical characteristics, and the electrical instrument was improved from a simple electromagnetic indicating device to a perfect high-precision electrical characteristics instrument. In the 1940s and 1950s, a revolution in information control technology was set off in many fields such as information, new energy, new materials, biology, space technology and Marine technology. Driven by it, the metrology has developed towards the maximum, minimum, extremely high and extremely low precision, which has promoted the rapid progress of modern science and technology such as nanotechnology and aerospace technology. The wide application of new technologies such as atomic energy, semiconductors, and electronic computers has promoted the gradual transition from macroscopic physical benchmarks of measurement to quantum benchmarks, and new breakthroughs have been made in remote sensing technology, intelligent technology, and online detection technology. It can be said that every leap in metrology has brought great driving force to scientific and technological innovation, scientific instrument progress and the expansion of measurement in related fields.

In 2018, the 26th International Conference on Measurement voted to adopt a resolution on the revision of the International System of Units (SI), which revolutionized the system of measurement units and measurement benchmarks. According to the resolution, the kilogram, the ampere, the Kelvin and the mole in the basic SI units were changed to the constant definitions supported by quantum metrology technology, respectively. Taking the kilogram as an example, more than a century ago, 1 kilogram was equal to the mass of the International kilogram original “Big K” preserved by the International Bureau of Metrology. Once the physical mass of the “big K” changes, then the unit kilogram will also change, and affect a series of related units. These changes “affect the whole body”, all walks of life will have to re-examine the existing standards, and the constant definition method perfectly solves this problem. Just as in 1967, when the definition of the unit of time “second” was revised with the properties of the atom, humanity today has satellite navigation and Internet technology, the redefinition of the four basic units will have a profound impact on science, technology, trade, health, the environment and other fields.

The development of science and technology, measurement first. Measurement is not only the forerunner and guarantee of science and technology, but also an important basis for protecting people’s lives and health. The theme of this year’s World Metrology Day is “Measuring for Health”. In the field of health care, from the determination of small physical examinations and drug dosages to the accurate identification and measurement of complex proteins and RNA molecules during vaccine development, medical metrology is a necessary means to ensure the accuracy and reliability of medical devices. In the field of environmental protection, metrology provides support for the monitoring and management of air, water quality, soil, radiation environment and other pollution, and is the “fire eye” to protect the green mountains. In the field of food safety, pollution-free food needs to carry out accurate measurement and detection of harmful substances in all aspects of production, packaging, transportation, sales, etc., in order to meet the public’s expectations for healthy diet. In the future, metrology is also expected to promote the localization, high-end and branding of digital diagnosis and treatment equipment in the field of biomedicine in China, and lead and promote the high-quality development of the health industry.

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