The Three Levels of Temperature Calibration

Primary Laboratories
Primary Labs are often National Laboratories, now known as National Metrology Institutes, NMIs.
A role of the NMI is to directly realise the International Temperature Scale of 1990 and to maintain standards for the Nation. NMIs also carry out inter-comparisons between themselves and other NMIs. Most NMIs also look to support and educate industry.

Secondary Laboratories
The secondary laboratory is so called because it does not maintain “Primary Standards”. These labs generally calibrate thermometers against standards in comparison baths. The comparison equipment creates a volume of constant temperature into which a standard thermometer, calibrated by a Primary Laboratory, together with the unknown thermometers is situated.

Industrial Calibration
Temperature indicators are often calibrated with electrical simulators which are connected to the instruments sensor input. The device can then be rapidly checked by programming the equivalent “temperature” input into the indicator.
However the temperature sensor will have the potential for larger drift so it is very important to test and calibrate the temperature sensor with a heat source.

Types of Equipment
There are a wide variety of heat sources for industrial calibration the most popular type is the Dry Block Calibrator. More recently multi purpose sources and liquid baths have become increasingly popular.

Dry Block Calibrators
Dry Blocks have a metal block into which the temperature sensors to be calibrated are placed. The block is heated or cooled to the desired temperature. Dry blocks fall into three temperature ranges, dictated by material availability, heater and cooling technology.

Peltier Driven Equipment
Peltier Modules are solid state heat pumps. Dry blocks utilizing this type of device have advantages of being able to heat and cool, are often portable and typically have fast heating and cooling rates. Peltier driven equipment has a typical operating range of -40 to 140°C

Electrically Heated Metal Block Baths
With this type of equipment an electrical heater replaces the heat pump. Commonly made with maximum temperature ranges of 650°C to 700°C.

Small Furnaces
At high temperatures conventional metal sheathed electric heating elements are replaced with ceramic furnace designs. These devices are commonly used to calibrate to 1200°C.

Portable Liquid Baths
Portable Stirred Liquid Baths have a well which is filled with a liquid. The liquid is stirred and heated or cooled to the desired temperature. They are ideal for awkward shaped and short sensors. Accuracies are in general better than Dry Blocks due to lack of air gaps and the temperature uniformity of the stirred liquid.

Isotech Isocal-6
The Isocal-6 range of products from Isotech is unique; it can be used in six different modes. As standard the units can be used as Dry Block Calibrators with a removable metal block drilled to accept temperature sensors. The block can be removed and replaced with a tank of liquid which is stirred as it is heated or cooled. Other accessories allow it to be used to calibrate surface sensors and infrared thermometers. The Isocal-6 can be considered as a portable calibration laboratory.

UKAS Laboratory
In addition to manufacturing temperature calibration products Isotech maintains a full scale UKAS accredited laboratory providing a valuable service to both industrial users and laboratories that need the very smallest uncertainties.

Isotech is known for its innovation and has introduced a Tympanic Thermometer Calibration System for medical thermometers. The use of Infrared Tympanic Thermometers is replacing more traditional thermometry such as mercury-in-glass. Besides obvious health concerns over the use of mercury the increase in the use of tympanic thermometers is related to their speed and relatively non-invasive method of operation. The design is licensed from the UK’s National Physical Laboratory and meets a very real, easy to use and cost effective calibration system.

To help users involved in temperature calibration Isotech has just launched a comprehensive E-learning program. The e-learning have been developed as part of the e-Learning Place. This £3-million project has enabled Isotech, in partnership with the University of Liverpool and Connect Internet Solutions, to create high-quality courses incorporating multimedia features and on-line interactive assessment. The benefits of the course include increased understanding of temperature calibration, the methods of calibration, the types of equipment available, how to select the appropriate equipment, how to avoid common pitfalls. For more information visit and

Please feel free to contact us for more information.