Development of Measurement Technology
The development of measurement technology is internationally recognized as crucial for the long-term competitiveness of industrial developed countries. Measurement and sensor technology has been identified in national and international technology foresight projects as important in all sectors of society and scientific disciplines. Long-term metrological research is necessary, since traceability and measurement techniques often need to be developed long before they can be applied in business and science, and are based on advances in basic research.
Primary traceability to national and international standards is at the heart of metrology, between on the one hand, the fundamental natural constants of physics and the description of the cosmos, and on the other hand, the more immediate calibration needs in industry and trade.
A research programme, with the aim of improving long-term competitiveness through better measurement, is directed mainly towards two areas in metrology: the development of improved primary traceability, and the development of generic methods and instrumentation.
Development of improved primary measurement standards
The primary measurement standards at the national and international level lie at the heart of measurement science and technology, between the fundamental constants of Nature and the physicist's description of the Universe on the one hand, and the more immediate calibration needs of industry and commerce on the other.
The development of the SI system of base and derived units takes place on the basis of a solid foundation of long-term metrological research closely linked to advances in science. In recent years, the traditional "prototype" artefacts have been replaced successively by more robust realisations more closely related to the fundamental constants of Nature. This is a result of a combination of scientific and technological progress which in several cases have lead the discoverers to be awarded the Nobel Physics Prize.
The technologies of, for example, cryogenics and quantum electronics (including lasers) have gone hand-in-hand with advances in modern physics of quantum mechanics and superconductivity, thus enabling national metrology laboratories (such as the SP in Borås) to maintain and develop the primary standards. In some cases new physical discoveries have even been stimulated by advances in primary measurement standards.
In Sweden there are several university groups whose research, mainly for pure science, happens to be of primary metrological interest (examples are given below). The development of the Swedish national standards, for example of the metre, volt and ohm in recent years, has depended on contacts between the universities (particularly CTH) and SP.
Development of generic measurement methods and instrumentation
Measurement is important to industry at all stages of production, from research and design to the quality of the finished product [White 1993]. Increasingly stringent requirements are imposed on the precision and quality of a widening range of products and production processes, and on analysis, of the environment for example. The competitive position in all sectors of Swedish industry (including the particular needs of SME's) can therefore be improved by a specific metrology research programme co-ordinated at the national level.
In order to realise the primary measurement standards with the highest accuracy and precision, it is frequently necessary to employ a combination of the best resources over a wide range of measurement technologies. The adoption of generic measurement methods and instrumentation, developed in conjunction with national metrology, may provide industry with the opportunity of developing new products, optimising the design and testing of products and improving product quality/production cost ratios.