Standard Active Last Updated: Jul 07, 2022
ASTM E1502-22

Standard Guide for Use of Fixed-Point Cells for Reference Temperatures

Significance and Use

5.1 A pure material has a well defined phase transition behavior, and the phase transition plateau, a characteristic of the material, can serve as a reproducible reference temperature for the calibration of thermometers. The melting or freezing points of some highly purified metals have been designated as defining fixed points on ITS-90. The fixed points of other materials have been determined carefully enough that they can serve as secondary reference points (see Tables 1 and 2). This guide presents information on the phase transition process as it relates to establishing a reference temperature.

(A) Defining fixed point for ITS-90.
(B) Realized as melting point.
(C) Based on recommendation of International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) Working Group 2 of the Comité Consultatif de Thermométrie (CCT-WG2); published as: Bedford, R. E., Bonnier, G., Maas, H., and Pavese, F., "Recommended Values of Temperature on the International Temperature Scale of 1990 for a Selected Set of Secondary Reference Points", Metrologia, Vol 33, 1996, pp. 133. DOI: 10.1088/0026-1394/33/2/3.
(A) Values for cells of good design, construction, and material purity used with careful technique. Cells of lesser quality may not approach these values.
(B) Realized as melting point.

5.2 Fixed-point cells provide users with a means of realizing melting and freezing points. If the cells are appropriately designed and constructed, if they contain material of adequate purity, and if they are properly used, they can establish reference temperatures with uncertainties of a few millikelvins or less. This guide describes some of the design and use considerations.

5.3 Fixed-point cells can be constructed and operated less stringently than required for millikelvin uncertainty, yet still provide reliable, durable, easy-to-use fixed points for a variety of industrial calibration and heat treatment purposes. For example, any freezing-point cell can be operated, often advantageously, as a melting-point cell. Such use may result in reduced accuracy, but under special conditions, the accuracy may be commensurate with that of freezing points (see 6.3.10).

5.4 The test procedure described in this guide produces qualification test data as an essential part of the procedure. These data furnish the basis for quality control of the fixed-point procedure. They provide for evaluation of results, assure continuing reliability of the method, and yield insight into the cause of test result discrepancies. The test procedure is applicable to the most demanding uses of fixed-point cells for precise thermometer calibration; it may not be appropriate or cost-effective for all applications. It is expected that the user of this guide will adapt the procedure to specific needs.


1.1 This guide describes the essential features of fixed-point cells and auxiliary apparatus, and the techniques required to realize fixed points in the temperature range from 29 °C to 1085 °C.3

1.2 Design and construction requirements of fixed-point cells are not addressed in this guide. Typical examples are given in Figs. 1 and 2.

FIG. 1 Examples of Fixed-Point Cells

Examples of Fixed-Point CellsExamples of Fixed-Point Cells

FIG. 2 Example of Fixed-Point Furnace

Example of Fixed-Point FurnaceExample of Fixed-Point Furnace

Note 1: This example shows an insulated furnace body and two alternative types of furnace cores. The core on the left is a three-zone shielded type. The core on the right employs a heat pipe to reduce temperature gradients.

1.3 This guide is intended to describe good practice and establish uniform procedures for the realization of fixed points.

1.4 This guide emphasizes principles. The emphasis on principles is intended to aid the user in evaluating cells, in improving technique for using cells, and in establishing procedures for specific applications.

1.5 For the purposes of this guide, the use of fixed-point cells for the accurate calibration of thermometers is restricted to immersion-type thermometers that, when inserted into the reentrant well of the cell, (1) indicate the temperature only of the isothermal region of the well, and (2) do not significantly alter the temperature of the isothermal region of the well by heat transfer.

1.6 This guide does not address all of the details of thermometer calibration.

1.7 This guide is intended to complement special operating instructions supplied by manufacturers of fixed-point apparatus.

1.8 The values stated in SI units are to be regarded as standard. No other units of measurement are included in this standard.

1.9 The following hazard caveat pertains only to the test method portion, Section 7, of this guide. This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety, health, and environmental practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use.

1.10 This international standard was developed in accordance with internationally recognized principles on standardization established in the Decision on Principles for the Development of International Standards, Guides and Recommendations issued by the World Trade Organization Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee.

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Book of Standards Volume: 14.03
Developed by Subcommittee: E20.07
Pages: 12
DOI: 10.1520/E1502-22
ICS Code: 17.200.20