Everyone knows what a lab scale does, and we all have a general idea of what the measurements represent. The words pound, ounce, gram, and kilogram are used in labs, factories, airports, and even at your gym, but do we really know what they mean? For instance, we can conceptualize the kilogram, we know that it is 1000 time heavier than a gram, but how did we decide how much the kilogram weighed in the first place? 


For thousands of years, humans worked to perfect the balance but no matter how precise the tool became the need for a standard was clear. We needed a measurable constant that we could place on one side of a balance for all other things to be measured against. The idea was sound, but the early implementations were rocky. 


This standard would become known as the kilogram. The constant that it was based on was a cubic decimeter of water at water’s most dense. Everyone had access to water, so in principal, everyone would have access to an accurate kilogram. This was far more complicated than envisioned but, in 1795, after months of work, researches had reached an agreed upon mass of water that would be the kilogram. 


From there, the first official prototype of the kilogram was made out of platinum, providing the world with a solid, useable, reference standard of weight. This standard, referred to as the “Kilogramme des Archives”, remained untouched until the 1870s when the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) was established. The BIPM decided on a new standard made from platinum-iridium, which is now known as the International Prototype Kilogram.


While this is our current reference standard for the kilogram, it is flawed. The Prototype has lost some mass over the years and the sub-prototypes all over the world are changing, albeit in the tiniest measureable fractions. With our ever-shrinking technology, it is clear that these old prototypes cannot remain our standards. 


As it stands, the plans for a new standard kilogram will involve the Planck constant, much like the standard meter is based on the speed of light now. These plans will be revisited in 2014 but don’t you worry, the new Kilogram is coming soon. 


Now you have a better picture in your head of what a ‘kilogram’ represents and this means that you have to fly to Paris next time you need to weigh something… actually, no. What you need to do is get yourself a Torbal. The finest precision digital lab scales, balances, and moisture analyzers are made by Torbal, and all the accessories as well. Contact Torbal today, and to keep up with the latest, follow @scales_balances on Twitter.