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From Hydrogen Fuel Stations to Bean Counters, NIST Weights and Measures Works to Meet Market Needs

State regulators, meter manufacturers and hydrogen gas producers concerned with developing markets for hydrogen fuel; farmers seeking to more precisely plan their plantings; and consumers and manufacturers of dry goods seeking fairness in commerce all should have something to smile about after this year's annual meeting of the National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM).

Held this year from July 11-15 in St. Paul, Minn., the NCWM Annual Meeting serves as a forum for the development and adoption of model standards for legal metrology in the United States. Most states and territories voluntarily implement NCWM model standards as a whole or in part into their respective legal frameworks.

The NCWM was originally convened by the National Bureau of Standards in 1905 as a way of promoting and achieving uniformity in standards related to commerce among the states. Now a nonprofit corporation with members representing industry, consumers, federal agencies and regulatory officials, the NCWM works closely with NIST to develop standards and model laws. NIST publishes the standards recommended by NCWM in Handbooks 44, 130 and 133, and NIST personnel serve as members of the NCWM and as expert advisors to NCWM technical committees.

This year's meeting saw a number of notable events. NCWM members endorsed a method of sale for hydrogen, thus filling a critical gap in the developing hydrogen economy infrastructure. The approved method stipulates that hydrogen fuel be sold by the kilogram and that street sign pricing be shown in terms of whole cents (e.g., $3.49 per kg, not $3.499 per kg).

Additionally, the conference espoused a tentative code that includes device design, accuracy, and installation and use requirements, and test procedures for hydrogen fuel. NIST will publish the tentative code in its 2011 edition of NIST Handbook 44 "Specifications, Tolerances, and Other Technical Requirements for Weighing and Measuring Devices."

In another measure, the NCWM voted to allow state regulators to use mechanical counters for the inspection of bulk agricultural seed (specifically corn seed, soybean seed, field bean seed, and wheat seed) labeled by "count" to ensure that the count is accurate.

Seeds are still bagged and sold by weight in accordance with NIST Handbook 133, but with supplementary labeling and verification of seed counts, farmers will now be able to calculate the exact number of seeds they will need to plant their crops.

Finally, the conference chose to accept a revision of NIST Handbook 133, "Checking the Net Contents of Packaged Goods." As an update to the current handbook (fourth edition, January 2005), the new version contains changes that eliminate confusion and ambiguity, and provide improved guidance and clarity for sections detailing moisture evaporation allowances in dry goods such as flour and dog food and seafood ice glazing test procedures.

A workgroup on packaged inkjet printer ink and toner cartridges was formed and will reconvene during the semiannual meeting in January, 2011.

A previously formed workgroup on price posting and computing capability for gasoline dispensers met during the conference to discuss alternate language for Handbook 44 as a result of various new technologies introduced into the marketplace.

For more information, visit the NIST Weights and Measures Division and the National Conference of Weights and Measures.

Released August 17, 2010, Updated January 19, 2023