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NIST Impact Verification Program


The objective of the impact verification program is to evaluate the performance of impact test machines used worldwide to qualify structural steels. We offer our customers standard reference materials (SRMs) that enable certification of their impact machines to a traceable measurement system. This indirect verification of machine performance increases the accuracy of impact data, which improves predictions of the reliability of bridges, buildings, railroads and other infrastructure, as well as the safety of products manufactured from structural steel such as oil and gas pipelines, heavy trucks, mining equipment, power plants and wind turbines.


Impact and Customers

picture of SRM 2092 Low energy samples for Charpy v-notch matchinesImpact testing is required for many critical applications in the construction, machinery and equipment, defense, and energy markets, which accounted for two thirds of the 91 million tons of steel shipped in 2011, valued at $48 billion. Charpy testing provides data needed to insure the quality and reliability of these structural steel products. Over 1,000 machines per year are evaluated against ASTM standards for our customers around the world. Machines certified through the NIST system provide results within 5%, or 1.4 J, of one another, which to the best of our knowledge is the narrowest distribution of impact results in the world today.


Charpy impact is a high strain rate test that measures energy absorption during fracture, providing an indirect measure of fracture toughness. In order for a Charpy machine to maintain an accurate absorbed energy scale, periodic testing with certified test specimens is required. To achieve the required accuracy for these indirect verifications, NIST maintains three reference impact machines for the United States (per ASTM E23). The average absorbed energy for samples from a given lot tested on these machines is defined as the certified value.

The program provides a complete certification service. SRMs manufactured to NIST specifications and certified on our reference machines are sold to customers for verifying the performance of their impact machines. After customers test the SRMs they are returned to our laboratory. 5 CVN SpecimensBased on our evaluation of the test results and the fractured specimens, NIST will either issue a certificate of compliance or provide suggestions for correction. The accumulated verification results are stored in a database, which is valuable for tracking quality of individual machine performance and for trend analysis to evaluate proposed changes to ISO and ASTM standards.

NIST SRMs for Indirect Verification of Charpy Impact Machines:

Absorbed energy

(SRMs 2092, 2096, and 2098)

Full service

Absorbed energy

(SRMs 2093 and 2097 in 2011)


Dynamic Force

(SRMs 2112 and 2113 in 2010)

Full service

NIST SRMs for Indirect Verification of Izod Impact Machines:

Absorbed energy (SRM 2115)                             Full service     

The analysis of the indirect verification test depends on whether the SRM is provided with full or limited service. Please see the details for the particular SRM tested (above).

Proficiency Testing (PT):
NIST PT Analysis
 Link to information

Major Accomplishments:

The NIST impact verification program has provided 22 years of service to manufacturers and consumers and currently certifies eight SRMs that underpin quality control testing of impact toughness for structural steels. We provide SRMs used to verify the measurement of absorbed energy at three energy levels: low energy (14-20 J); high energy (88-136 J); and super high energy (176-244 J). We also provide two SRMs that are used to verify the measurement of maximum force in a Charpy impact test. SRMs are available for both Charpy and Izod impact testing (Figure 1).

 Charpy and Izod test samples
Figure 1. Examples of Charpy and Izod samples.

The Charpy program supplies 2,000 units per year to customers worldwide. Typically, we evaluate and report on over 1,000 verification tests per year. We are available to our customers by email, fax or phone (1,500 contacts per year) and continually update our customer website and database to improve customer interactions. Most recently, the program has gone paperless, improving the already short turnaround time for our post-test evaluation to same-day service.

We recently added a means for our customers to obtain a proficiency test result for their impact test (Figure 2). When a customer purchases a set of SRMs, the data from all NIST verification tests for that lot are made available. Customers can compare their test results to this compiled data, giving them an alternate means (aside from meeting ASTM or ISO requirements) to evaluate the performance of their impact machines, and the relative performance of multiple impact machines within their organizations. This information supports efforts by industry to achieve or maintain quality system certification through ISO or other standards bodies.

 Proficiency test data
Figure 2. Example of proficiency test data available for production lots.

NIST maintains leadership positions on ASTM and ISO standards committees and has long been active in improving impact testing standards both in the U.S. and around the world. We maintain an extensive database of customer data in order to further improve measurement accuracy and support our ISO and ASTM activities. For example, we publish a guide on uncertainty analysis for Charpy tests that offers users a full explanation of the uncertainty associated with the NIST reference specimens and the customer's verification test.

We are currently working with several national metrological institutes (NMIs) to develop an approach to SRM certification that reduces the bias among the NMIs. Our focus is on standardizing the design of instrumented strikers to provide comparable load-displacement data across all types of Charpy machines. If successful, absorbed energy measured under the instrumented impact curve will be traceable to force and time, moving the underpinnings of the measurement to more fundamental quantities (Figure 3). This approach, like the current approach of measuring the energy absorbed from a pendulum swing (in Joules), has many practical issues that will need to be addressed. However, we see it as the future in impact testing and the best hope for establishing a scale for measuring absorbed energy that can help to reduce bias among NMIs.

Force/time data from Charpy tests


Figure 3. Force/time data acquired from instrumented Charpy test.




Picture of a C-type NIST Reference Machine

End Date:


Lead Organizational Unit:



Our customers include major steel manufacturers such as ArcelorMittal, Nucor, U. S. Steel and SSAB, as well as heavy equipment manufacturers such as Caterpillar and Westinghouse Nuclear.

Facilities/Tools Used:

ASTM E23 defines three of the NIST reference impact machines as the target for absorbed energy. The three reference machines are: (1) a 400 J C-type, (2) a 360 J U-type, and (3) a 400 J U-type machine.

Other pendulum impact machines serve as back-ups for the reference machines, and are used for research.
  • 400 J instrumented impact machine
  • 900 J instrumented impact machine
  • 300 J impact machine for Izod testing
  • 50 J instrumented impact machine for miniature Charpy specimens

Useful Links


Chris McCowan – Project leader
Ray Santoyo
– Charpy Program Coordinator
Enrico Lucon - Researcher
Jolene Splett - Statistician
Ken Talley - Technician

Associated Products:


General Information:
303-497-3351 Office
303-497-5939 Fax

325 Broadway, MS 853.07
Boulder, CO 80305