Accurate measurements enrich our lives
- Chemical signatures of a product help us understand if an artefact is what people say it is in terms of composition, quality and value.
- The science of measurements and its applications, commonly referred to as metrology, is as old as humanity.
Everything around us is made of unique chemical and biological molecules: From the air we breathe to colour that makes a rose red, water, viruses and bacteria that elude medications and the silicon chips that power our computers and cell phones.
Understanding how chemical and biological molecules form and interact to form products enables us to tap the power of complex matter and use them, just like a toolbox, for our daily life to create modern advances in fields such as medicine, communication, transportation, building infrastructure, food science and agriculture.
Chemical signatures of a product help us understand if an artefact is what people say it is in terms of composition, quality and value. Estimating the true quantity of a known chemical or biological entity in a product with a high level of confidence makes trade in products of diverse chemical and biological agents possible.
The science of measurements and its applications, commonly referred to as metrology, is as old as humanity. It has evolved over time to standardised measurement techniques and technologies and is at the centre of making any trade decisions. This plays a central role in driving scientific and technological discovery and innovations, industrial manufacturing, international trade and interoperability, improving quality of life and protecting human and animal lives and the environment.
Chemical metrology is a relatively new but rapidly developing area focusing on understanding the basic principles and science of the identification and quantification of chemical and biological entities using the core analytical techniques. Its benefits in food safety, health and environmental goals are increasingly recognised.
Chemical metrology makes trade fairer by ensuring producers get correct payment for their products and consumers value for money. The correct evaluation of raw materials ensures quality is not compromised and the government gets the right taxes.
During pandemics like Covid-19, chemical metrology ensures accurate and reliable laboratory measurements of unimaginable and invisible confirmatory diagnosis parameters such as the RNA of the SARS-CoV-2, body temperature, weight and pressure, leading to improved healthcare to alleviate suffering.
The adage that if you cannot measure it, you cannot make it is useful, especially now that institutions are coming up with innovative products to fight the coronavirus monster.
To control the manufacturing and ensure the quality of products, industries are required to, through calibrations, align their equipment to international reference standards.
There is a need to support development of chemical metrology to ensure the quality of the chemical and biological evaluations of products and systems in various sectors.
The government must provide a strong cornerstone that underpins national chemical measurement and testing capabilities throughout the country to support trade and other socioeconomic activities.
“False weights and unequal measures – the Lord detests double standards of every kind,” so says the Bible in Proverbs 20: 10. Always strive to ensure quality and validity of the results. This is obedience, for God abhors double standards.
Dr Karau (PhD) is head of research and development, Kenya Bureau of Standards.