What are NIST Traceable Standards?
NIST-traceable standards are reference materials certified to specific values laid out by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). They are designed specifically for standardized instrument calibration and quality assurance protocols aimed at eliminating measurement uncertainties. The implication with NIST-traceable standards is that all calibrations are part of an unbroken chain of comparisons from the manufacturer through to the end-user, which is where the term traceability comes from.
Traceability is a crucial parameter in elemental analysis and wet chemistry applications. When we talk about the traceability of measurements, we are referring to systemic reliability – and subsequently the reliability of your results – relative to an accepted set of standards. This is the basic premise of standardized metrology and the international system of units (SI). Yet the traceability of chemical measurements is a relatively new concept compared to physical parameters.
NIST develops and disseminates realizations of the SI for basic measurement quantities and uncertainties. This encompasses the federal standard reference material (SRM) program, which continuously aims to deliver avenues for total traceability in method development and validation for analytical facilities. NIST-traceable standards fall under this bracket.
There are several criteria that must be met in order to ensure full NIST-traceability, and these must be met at every stage of the traceability chain – not just by the end-user:
- The uncertainty of measurement at each touchpoint in the chain must be calculated and stated explicitly to enable an overall estimation of uncertainty;
- Each step must be carried out according to documented procedures and all results should be recorded;
- Facilities in the chain must be accredited or be able to prove technical competence.
What Does This Mean in Practice?
The concept of NIST-traceability is straightforward, yet daunting. It relies on total accountability, robust documentation, and demonstrable technical acuity at every stage of the chain. What this means for NIST-traceable standard manufacturers, is that we have a duty to support all claims of traceability with clear documentation proving credibility. This relies on robust, internal quality assurance programs. For end-users, it means you have a responsibility to assess the validity of our claims to preserve the unbroken chain of comparisons which forms the backbone of NIST-traceability.
NIST-Traceable Standards from Inorganic Ventures
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