A primary standard in metrology is a standard that is sufficiently accurate such that it is not calibrated by or subordinate to other standards. Primary standards are defined via other quantities like length, mass and time. Primary standards are used to calibrate other standards referred to as working standards.
Standards are used in analytical chemistry. Here, a primary standard is typically a reagent which can be weighed easily, and which is so pure that its weight is truly representative of the number of moles of substance contained. Features of a primary standard include:
- High purity
- Stability (low reactivity)
- Low hygroscopicity (to minimize weight changes due to humidity)
- High equivalent weight (to minimize weighing errors)
- Ready and cheap availability
(The last two are not as essential as the first three.)
Some examples of primary standards according to the European Pharmacopoeia 5, ch. 4.2:
- Arsenic trioxide for making sodium arsenite solution for standardisation of sodium periodate solution (until Ph. Eur. 3, Appendix 2001 also for iodine and cerium(IV) sulfate solutions, since Ph. Eur. 4, 2002 standardised by sodium thiosulfate)
- Benzoic acid for standardisation of waterless basic solutions: ethanolic sodium and potassium hydroxide, TBAH, and alkali methanolates in methanol, isopropanol, or DMF
- Potassium bromate (KBrO3) for standardisation of sodium thiosulfate solutions
- Potassium hydrogen phthalate (usually called KHP) for standardisation of aqueous base and perchloric acid in acetic acid solutions
- Sodium carbonate for standardisation of aqueous acids: hydrochloric, sulfuric acid and nitric acid solutions (but not acetic acid)
- Sodium chloride for standardisation of silver nitrate solutions
- Sulfanilic acid for standardisation of sodium nitrite solutions
- Zinc powder, after being dissolved in sulfuric or hydrochloric acid, for standardization of EDTA solutions
- Skoog, Douglas A., Donald M. West and F. James Holler. "Fundamentals of Analytical Chemistry 8th ed." Harcourt Brace College Publishers. 1995 ISBN 0-03-035523-0
- Holt Science and Technology: Physical Science. Ed. Rinehart and Winston, Inc. Holt. Holt McDougal (July 2000). ISBN 978-0-03-051957-4.
- Analytical Standards. Department of Chemistry, University of Adelaide, Australia.