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Improvement of COMAR database

COMAR, the international database for certified reference materials (CRMs) has been improved by BAM for the benefit of CRM users and producers worldwide.

The database represents a cooperation of 19 national or international institutes and is hosted by the BAM. The database informs about worldwide available certified reference materials (CRMs). CRMs provide "measurement benchmarks" for materials testing and chemical analysis and ensure reliability and worldwide comparability of measurements in these fields.

The use of CRMs is a basic requirement in quality assurance for any testing or calibration laboratory, especially in chemical analysis. COMAR has been established to help laboratories to find the proper CRM needed.

BAM has recently improved COMAR with the objectives to make searching in COMAR more simply and target-oriented ed and to perform the data update process more efficiently.

New COMAR features improving the search are:

- The search for a particular molecule name now results in all CRM hits referring to the same CAS (Chemical Abstracts Service) number, whatever the molecule names used by the producer for the CRM descriptions and for the data input were. This is accomplished by internal use of CAS numbers rather than specific molecule names in the search process. This helps to find a complete list of CRM hits in spite of the diversity of names for a specific compound as usually met in chemistry.

- Extension of the searchable "CRM description field" to 1000 characters in order to enable entering more CRM information in that field. The description field allows simple string search and is therefore an important and easy-to-handle tool.

- Implementation of a new search tool "matrix search", both as a separate tool or in combination with the search tool "chemical composition". This is a significant improvement with respect to finding a proper matrix CRM. Matrix CRMs are certified for the amount content of specified analytes in a defined matrix (e.g., soil, wood, sludge, foodstuffs) and they are key to major fields of analytical applications (e.g., environmental chemical analyses). Currently the new search tool is not released.

Prior to the release a substantial part of the existing COMAR CRM entries has to be assigned to the catalogue of matrix keywords supporting the search. For the matrix categorisation COMAR uses a list of matrix keywords recently developed by ISO REMCO (ISO's Committee on Reference Materials) as part of the ISO Technical Report 10989 "Categorisation of reference materials - Guidance on, and keywords used for RM categorisation" (publication in preparation). The assignment of the CRM entries to the new matrix keywords will take some time. COMAR will indicate the release on the COMAR website.

- The new combination of the search tool "chemical composition" with the search in the "CRM description field" makes handling more simply and allows for more carefully targeted queries.

COMAR contains information on about 11 000 CRM from more than 220 reference materials producers in 25 countries. Keeping the data up-to-date requires huge efforts by the cooperating institutes.

The new COMAR version allows a closer involvement of the various CRM producers in the update process. A new level of COMAR update rights has been created that can be assigned to single CRM producers. In the past COMAR was operated using only update rights of country wide validity assigned to the cooperating national or international institutes. The new level of update rights allows the COMAR partners to share the burden of data update with the affiliated CRM producers. That helps making the COMAR update more efficient and ensuring the provision of current CRM information.

CRM producers interested in entering their CRMs into COMAR are invited to contact the national COMAR partner or the COMAR central secretariat at BAM (contact points see COMAR website at: Interested CRM producer shall comply with the quality requirements of the relevant ISO guides (ISO Guides 31, 34, and 35).

The demand for information about available CRMs is still growing in parallel to the ever increasing number of chemical and biochemical measurements. COMAR has been a key source of information about worldwide available CRMs, covering a broad scope of application fields. The use of COMAR is free of charge and the number of COMAR users, logins and displayed search results has been growing for years. The recent improvements of COMAR are intended to meet this challenge also in the future.

Information: Dr. Thomas Steiger, Rita Pradel
COMAR secretariat
c/o BAM Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing
phone : +49 30 8104 5860 / 5862

Dr. Ulrike Rockland | idw
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