What is a Certified Reference Material?

Engineering Analytics Laboratories What is a Certified Reference Material?

ICTAC Certified Reference Material vs. Certified Reference Material vs. NIST Certified Reference Material vs. Reference Material

  • ICTAC is an association like the American Chemical Society or the North American Thermal Analysis Association
  • Certified Reference Materials and NIST Certified Reference Materials are materials made following an established procedure to ensure ultra high purity, 99.999+%, of a material followed by testing to verify purity and properties. These reference materials come with analysis results and traceability of the supply chain.
  • Reference Materials are pure, 99.0+%, and high purity, 99.99+%, materials used for general calibration procedures.

For more information, continue reading below:


What is the ICTAC? This is the International Confederation of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry, and you can find their website at ICTAC.org. This organization allows for collaboration and contributions from all individual, national, and regional thermal analysis and calorimetric groups and societies. The ICTAC is not in itself a governing or qualifying body such as ISO or NIST.

Within the thermal analysis community, the ICTAC has identified 6 materials with Curie Points which will allow for a Thermogravimetric Analyzer’s full range of use by calibration. Those materials are:

  • Alumel
  • Nickel
  • NiCo (83/17 alloy)
  • NiCo (63/37 alloy)
  • NiCo (37/63 alloy)
  • Cobalt

These 6 materials will allow for the testing of just about every material using a standard Thermogravimetric Analyzer (TGA). This list, though, is not all of the materials with literature established Curie points. See our Shop for additional calibration standards.

Certified Reference Standard

Certified Reference materials are manufactured following standardized procedures, and the resulting material has a guaranteed purity of 99.0+ to 99.9999+% as tested and verified by NIST which then resells the materials. For this reason, the cost of these standards is quite high, and guarantees a superior product with guaranteed properties.

When to purchase a Certified Reference Standard:

  • Industry Use Requirement
  • Standard, such as ASTM or FDA, requirement
  • High resolution research
  • Using high-end or high resolution equipment which requires this level of purity

When to purchase a Reference Standard:

  • General and basic research testing
  • Non-research testing
  • Quality control testing
  • Training/Teaching
  • When Certified is not expressly required by a standard

If the above sections have not answered your question, please reach out to EA Labs, and we will help you determine the best material for your needs.

Reference Standard

General use reference standards are high purity materials, and most will have a purity greater than 99.9%. Some will have a purity as high as 99.999% due to the ease of manufacturing a raw material with such a high purity. Some reference materials will be lower in purity, and this is due to the organic nature of the material, such as Adamantane, which makes manufacturing or purification efforts beyond 99% futile due to costs.

Reference Standards are useful in about 90% of all testing via thermal analysis techniques such as Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) and Thermogravimetric Analysis (TGA). All Reference Standards sold by EA Labs have a purity matching a verified literature sources reported percent purity for use as a calibration standard.

Due to the intrinsic system errors of base model thermal analysis equipment, the extra purity of a Certified Reference Standard has little to no impact on the precision or accuracy on the calibration of a unit. As it stands, most units, when calibrated with EA Lab’s Calibration Reference Standards, will provide an accuracy to within 0.5 C of the specified property temperature, and several standards used in the industry actually have short ranges over which a property will exhibit itself, as reported by various literature sources. Additionally, the ASTM standards providing Precision & Bias for calibration allow for accuracy within +5 oC of literature values. Because of the intrinsic system error, EA Labs Reference Standards yield the best cost to value ratio.