Determination of the Planck constant by means of a watt balance
Federal Office of Metrology, METAS, Lindenweg 50, 3003 Bern-Wabern, Switzerland
2 Laboratoire National de Métrologie et d'Essais, 29 avenue Roger Hennequin, 78197 Trappes, France
The kilogram is the only base unit of the Système International d'unités (SI) still defined by a material artefact. Regarding the past evolution of the SI and the poor knowledge of the stability of the international prototype, its definition is not satisfactory. In the long term, it would be better to move to a definition based either on atomic properties or on fundamental constants. Among the various researches in progress in metrology laboratories, one of the most promising ways seems to be the watt balance. Its principle consists in comparing a mechanical power to an electromagnetic power. This comparison results from a measurement performed in two steps: a static measurement during which the Laplace force acting on a coil driven by a DC current and subjected to an induction field is compared to the weight of a standard mass, and a dynamic measurement where the induced voltage at the terminals of the same coil is determined when it is moved in the same field at a known velocity. The measurement of electrical quantities in terms of the Josephson and the quantum Hall effects then allows the mass unit be linked to the Planck constant. Although the principle of the experiment remains simple and direct, obtaining sufficiently low uncertainty ( 10-8) implies that devices relevant of various fields of physics must be implemented at their best level. In this paper, a review of the present developments at international level is presented.
© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag, 2009