Oxides in metal fixed points of the ITS-90

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DOIResolve DOI: http://doi.org/10.1088/0026-1394/46/5/006
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Journal titleMetrologia
Pages423438; # of pages: 16
AbstractIn the range between 0 °C and 961 °C, the International Temperature Scale of 1990 (ITS-90) depends to a great extent on the freezing points of the pure metals gallium, indium, tin, zinc, aluminium and silver. An up-to-date realization of these fixed points is based on cells containing metals of ultra-high purity (6N or better) and should include a correction for the influence of relevant impurities. Still, chemical analyses of the fixed-point material can show large amounts of oxygen, which had to be neglected so far, because of the lack of detailed knowledge about it, presuming it could be removed from the cell by applying a vacuum (less than 1 Pa) for a few hours. In this paper we discuss an equilibrium of several forms of oxygen in a fixed-point cell, gaseous in the cell’s atmosphere, dissolved in the fixed-point metal and as oxide in a separate (solid) phase. We will conclude that in many fixed points most of the oxygen is not dissolved in the metal, but bound in oxides of the fixed-point metal as well as oxides of some impurities. To demonstrate the impact that the precipitation of impurity oxides has on thermometry, two indium fixed-point cells were doped with magnesium and chromium, which leave the fixed-point temperature unchanged. Further evidence is drawn from earlier work. All these results support the presumed existence of (at least one) persistent separate oxide phase in the fixed points of indium, tin, zinc and aluminium, which renders them eutectic or peritectic points and is a more likely reason why the oxygen content of a cell does not influence the fixed-point temperature. To complement these studies, thermodynamic calculations show how to treat the equilibrium in the cell quantitatively. Using available chemical data, a list is provided that indicates for each fixed-point metal (including the other metal fixed points of the ITS-90: mercury, gold, copper) the impurities that probably build oxides. Due to the agreement of the calculated values with the presented experimental results, we suggest excluding those impurities from the correction of a fixed-point temperature (e.g. the SIE method), unless there is strong evidence of their dissolution.
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AffiliationNational Research Council Canada (NRC-CNRC); NRC Institute for National Measurement Standards
Peer reviewedYes
NPARC number15749948
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Record identifier6252d52f-c534-4c28-9a47-938e6acdccbd
Record created2010-06-25
Record modified2016-05-09
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