The use of infrared tympanic thermometers for monitoring patient health is widespread. However, studies into the performance of these thermometers have questioned their accuracy and repeatability. To give users confidence in these devices, and to provide credibility in the measurements, it is necessary for them to be tested using an accredited, standard blackbody source, with a calibration traceable to the International Temperature Scale of 1990 (ITS-90). To address this need the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), UK, has recently set up a primary ear thermometer calibration (PET-C) source for the evaluation and calibration of tympanic (ear) thermometers over the range from 15 °C to 45 °C. The overall uncertainty of the PET-C source is estimated to be ± 0.04 °C at k = 2.
The PET-C source meets the requirements of the European Standard EN 12470-5: 2003 Clinical thermometers. It consists of a high emissivity blackbody cavity immersed in a bath of stirred liquid. The temperature of the blackbody is determined using an ITS-90 calibrated platinum resistance thermometer inserted close to the rear of the cavity. The temperature stability and uniformity of the PET-C source was evaluated and its performance validated. This paper provides a description of the PET-C along with the results of the validation measurements.
To further confirm the performance of the PET-C source it was compared to the standard ear thermometer calibration sources of the National Metrology Institute of Japan (NMIJ), Japan and the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB), Germany. The results of this comparison will also be briefly discussed.
The PET-C source extends the capability for testing ear thermometers offered by the NPL body temperature fixed-point source, described previously. An update on the progress with the commercialisation of the fixed-point source will be given.