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Into the Future with Metrology - The Challenges of Our Environment and Climate

The Challenges of Our Environment and Climate

When it comes to climate and the environment, in many cases, the eleventh hour is already upon us. But to make reliable statements about climate change, quantitative, accurate and reliable measurements are needed – and this in a highly complex system with a very large number of relevant physical and chemical measurement parameters. As environmental and climate processes know no boundaries, one of PTB's most important partners in climate monitoring is the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which operates, among other things, the Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) Programme and the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). The latter defines, for example, 54 essential climate variables (ECVs), i.e. physical, chemical and biological measurement quantities designed to describe the global state of the climate. Changes in these quantities are small; in order to recognize developments unambiguously, long-term, highly accurate and reliable measurements (i.e. measurements that are traceable to the International System of Units SI) are necessary. Therefore, PTB has increased its participation in the traceability of these measurements.

When it comes to environmental protection, the German Environment Agency (UBA) is an important partner of PTB; the legal framework is provided by European framework directives for air and water, among other things. PTB is also responsible for the traceability and certification of vehicle exhaust gas and particle measurements and is continuously expanding its capabilities in this field. Within the framework of the radiation protection network, PTB maintains close contact with the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), the control centers of the Integrated Measurement and Information System (IMIS), which monitors radioactivity in the environment, as well as with the measuring stations of the federal and state governments. PTB is very active in European research programs such as EMPIR and is highly involved in the European Metrology Networks (EMNs) which are derived from these programs. PTB communicates intensively with the various stakeholders in legislation, standardization, industry and research in order to achieve and support continuous improvement and expansion of these activities. Please feel free to contact us!

News (partly in German)


Morre than 23 million people in the world are exposed to ionizing radiation sometime during the course of their work. Natural radiation is everywhere and affects everyone. The topic of radiation protection is also becoming ever more varied. Due to the latest developments, such as pulsed radiation in medical, industrial or technical applications, we are now increasingly dealing with radiation...

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Aus einem Autoauspuff kommt Abgas.

Improved air quality in city centers and climate protection – counting soot particles is to become an integral part of the exhaust examination of diesel cars within the scope of mandatory vehicle inspections in Germany (HU/AU). This novel task requires an entirely new type of measuring instruments that must first be developed and type-approved in order to be installed in vehicle workshops. To...

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Untertagelaboratorium UDO II der PTB

Nach Tschernobyl wurden weltweit Netzwerke von Messstationen eingerichtet, um die Radioaktivität und Ortsdosisleistung in der Umwelt flächendeckend zu überwachen. Heute sind allein in Europa mehr als 5500 solcher Messstationen nationaler Frühwarnsysteme im Einsatz, die mit hochempfindlichen Dosimetern die Ortsdosisleistung überwachen und ihre Messdaten rund um die Uhr, im Stundentakt, an das Joint...

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In a new cross-institutional working group called “Advanced Materials” under the leadership of the Bundesanstalt für Risikobewertung (Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, BfR), an expert committee which includes experts from PTB will assess the potential health and environmental risks of advanced materials. The committee is intended to shed light on the future handling of advanced materials, new...

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Electron microscope image of the columnar nanostructures on the silicon surface of the photodiode(Source: T. Pasanen/Aalto Univ.)

Photodiodes for the ultraviolet (UV) spectral range are used in a large number of applications such as spectroscopy, imaging, flame detection, water treatment and biotechnologies. So far, loss processes have considerably limited their responsivity. A novel photodiode allowed the quantum efficiency to increase from roughly 80 % to more than 130 %.

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The infrasound playback system consists of two sound generators (earphone transducers in an air-tight metallic housing). Sound is guided to a joint insert earphone via a flexible tube.

The growing number of infrasound sources in our environment is increasingly attracting society’s attention. Together with the Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg, PTB has investigated how humans perceive infrasound with their ears and whether the detection threshold of an infrasonic signal depends on whether it is composed of one or of several tones. This allows conclusions to be drawn as to...

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Wasserdampf in der Atmosphäre hat sehr großen Einfluss auf das Klima. Seine räumliche Verteilung lässt sich am besten mit flugfähigen Plattformen wie Flugzeugen messen. Aus diesem Grund arbeitet die Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) mit dem Institut für Flugführung (IFF) der Technischen Universität Braunschweig eng zusammen, um neue metrologische Konzepte für die Feuchtemessung zu...

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Ein Kran lässt Teile einer technischen Anlage zu Boden.

Wasserstoff gewinnt nicht nur als klimaneutraler Energieträger zunehmend an Bedeutung, sondern auch als erneuerbares Prozessgas in der Stahlherstellung. Wird der Wasserstoff mithilfe regenerativ erzeugten Stroms hergestellt, lassen sich bei der Stahlproduktion erhebliche Mengen an CO2-Emissonen vermeiden. Das Wissen um eine geeignete Wasserstoff-Mengenmesstechnik, mit der sich industrielle...

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The OBCA mounted next to the transfer standard on the translation system at PTB's Reduced Background Calibration Facility 2. (Photo credit: Fraunhofer IOF, CYMER)

At PTB, the reference radiation source of the EnMAP satellite for the remote sensing of the Earth has been calibrated with high resolution. This ensures the long-term comparability and traceability of its global measurement data from the fields of geobiology, geochemistry and geophysics.

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The new building accommodates, among other things, testing laboratories for exhaust meters that are state of the art and a calibration laboratory for particle counters.

The regular inspection of motor vehicle emissions became more stringent in several ways at the end of 2017. This required exhaustive research activities, and numerous type examination certificates for exhaust meters had to be issued or renewed promptly. For this purpose, a new building was planned, erected and commissioned within just one year in order to accommodate a new certification...

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Climate: Research at PTB Climate: Research at PTB

Satellites: the view from space
How much does the greenhouse effect heat up the earth? PTB helps to answer such questions by calibrating ESA and NASA detectors before they are used. 

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An accurate view of the Sun 
Ozone, water vapor, nitrogen oxides and aerosols absorb and reflect the radiation of the Sun. PTB helps to estimate the influences of these effects on the climate change by calibrating devices which measure the radiation of the Sun radriometrically. 

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The atmosphere: the air around us 
A key task of climate monitoring is the observation of the most important atmospheric components that influence the greenhouse effect. The PTB is working on it, too.

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Oceans: Saltier and more acidic
Climate change has an effect on the density and salinity of seawater. Reliable measuring procedures are important to find out more about these processes. 

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How humid, how warm?
Plain water in the form of humid air is one of the strongest greenhouse gases. PTB is one of the main participants in the broad introduction of the metrological principle of traceability for the measurand of water content.

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Human influences on the greenhouse gas cycle

Human civilization disturbs the natural cycle of the greenhouse gases. By using isopte measuring methods, PTB researchers try to find out more about these processes. 

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Local pollutants - global Climate: Research at PTB Local pollutants - global Climate: Research at PTB

Global greenhouse gas fluxes: Local sources and sinks  
Anyone who wants to understand climate change and the effects of environmental pollution quantify the sources and sinks of the problematic substances: of water vapor, greenhouse gases, pollutants and aerosols/fine dust from traffic.

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"Thick air" in the cities
Pollutants from car exhaust gases are harmful to human health, the environment and the climate. PTB ensures that measuring instruments for exhaust gas measurement or for monitoring air quality are reliable.

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Environment: Research at PTBEnvironment: Research at PTB

What comes out of the exhaust pipe? 
The Diesel scandal, nitrogen oxide limits, driving bans in German city centers – all these topics are currently causing a lot of discussion. On behalf of lawmakers, PTB is taking part in the search for solutions. 

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Pollutants in water and soil 
The EU is very concerned about its waters. Within the framework of the Network for Metrology in Chemistry in Germany, PTB maintains the necessary standards and organizes interlaboratory comparisons.

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UV therapy for safe drinking water 
For the drinking water disinfection with UV-C radiation, PTB supports the technological change from mercury vapor lamps to LED-based energy-saving UV-C sources.  

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What's radiating here? 
Concerning ionizing radiation, the focus can be on two different aspects: either on the radiating object itself, or on the dose a person receives. In both cases, the German Radiation Protection Act applies and PTB is active when precise measurements are needed.  

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Too bright and too loud
Not only pollutants but also too much light and too much noise are polluting our environment. PTB is working on advancing metrology and legislation in this field. 

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Steering Group for Environment and ClimateSteering Group for Environment and Climate

Dr. Fabian Plag
Präsidialer Stab
Phone: +49 531 592-2006  
Opens window for sending emailfabian.plag(at)ptb.de


Steering Group Members 

Dr.-Ing. Frank Härtig (Chair)
Vice-President of PTB
Phone: +49 531 592-2000
Opens local program for sending emailfrank.haertig(at)ptb.de

Dr. Bernd Güttler
Head of Division 3
Chemical Physics and Explosion Protection
Phone: +49 531 592-3010
Opens window for sending emailbernd.guettler(at)ptb.de

Dr. Armin Sperling
Head of Department 4.1
Photometry and Spectroradiometry
Phone: +49 531 592-4100
Opens window for sending emailarmin.sperling(at)ptb.de

Dr. Annette Röttger 
Head of Division 6  
Ionizing Radiation
TPhone: +49 531 592-6010  
Opens window for sending emailannette.roettger(at)ptb.de

Dr. Jörg Hollandt
Head of Department 7.3
Detector Radiometry and Radiation Thermometry
Phone: +49 30 3481-7369
Opens window for sending emailjoerg.hollandt(at)ptb.de

Dr. Christian Monte
Head of Working Group 7.32
Infrared Radiation Thermometry
Phone: +49 30 3481-7246
Opens window for sending emailchristian.monte(at)ptb.de