VSL Dutch Metrology Institute
As the Netherlands’ national metrology institute (NMI), VSL makes measurement results of companies, laboratories and institutions directly traceable to international standards SI units. Through providing services including calibrations, consultancy, reference materials, interlaboratory comparisons and training courses, VSL makes an important contribution to the dependability, quality and innovation of products and processes in commerce and society. TNO Companies is VSL’s shareholder. By commission of the Dutch government, VSL manages and develops the national measurement standards. VSL is a private company with a public task.
VSL (an abbreviation of Van Swinden Laboratory) was named after Jean Henri van Swinden (1746-1823), Professor in Franeker, Netherlands, and later in Amsterdam. Van Swinden was participant in an international commission to establish the metre and he was also the person who introduced the original metre (a platinum rod) to the French government in 1799. He subsequently devoted himself to ensuring that the metric system was introduced in the Netherlands. Years later, in 1875, the Metre Convention was first signed, an international agreement establishing a permanent organizational structure for member governments to act in common accord on all matters relating to units of measurement.
In 1960, the above developments led to the introduction of the SI-system (SI = Système Internationale). Eventually, it was not until 1999 that a significant number of countries signed the Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) and thereby agreed to accept each other’s national standards and corresponding measurement results. In the Netherlands, the Metrology Act (2006) applies, which prescribes the availability of national measurement standards in the interest of trade and society. By contract, the Ministry of Economic Affairs has determined that VSL is the executive body for these issues. VSL moved to new premises in Delft in 2005, providing high quality laboratories, where measurement standards are developed for many quantities.
Does this mean that metrological developments are completed? No, certainly not. New developments evolve continually, prompted by society’s demand for increasingly higher accuracy and reliability, by new technologies and by applications for which new measurement standards are needed, and also by more fundamental matters. For example, in conjunction with the German and French metrological institutes, VSL developed a new European standard for a cubic metre of natural gas. This new, harmonised standard removes any doubts that could arise between countries regarding the delivered quantity of natural gas.