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New International Standards for Superconducting Electronic Sensors and Detectors Issued An effort for the development of high-value-added superconducting sensors and detectors

Sensors and Detectors for Superconducting Electronic Devices (hereinafter referred to as “superconducting sensors”) are advanced technologies applied in a wide variety of fields, including medical inspection, resource exploration, information and communications, and scientific observation. In January 2014, Japan submitted a proposal for international standardization concerning generic specifications for superconducting sensors with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). In response, the IEC approved the proposal and issued new international standard for superconducting sensors and detectors (IEC 61788-22-1).

1. Background

Superconducting sensors are advanced technologies that make use of superconductivity phenomena. Allowing for precise measuring beyond what conventional sensors and detectors can achieve, these technologies are applied to measuring devices in a variety of fields in which precise measurements is required, such as magnetocardiography or magnetoencephalography in medical examination, magnetic probe devices used in resource exploration, and electromagnetic radiation detectors used in scientific observation, e.g., astronomical observation.

As the applications of superconducting sensors expanded and technical development advanced, a wide variety of superconducting sensors with different structures, operating principles and other features have appeared on the market that are based on the application of such sensors. Despite the spread of these products, there were no established standards for superconducting sensors, including even for the most basic rules, e.g., terminology and graphical symbols. This situation caused communication problems between the manufacturers of superconducting sensors and those of instruments equipped with the sensors.

To address this situation, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) launched a strategic project for  the development of international standards*1 regarding superconducting sensor nomenclature, measuring objects, operating principles and other elements. Based on the results of the project, in January 2014, Japan submitted a proposal for international standardization concerning superconducting sensors with the IEC Technical Committee for Superconductivity (IEC/TC90)*2.

Following this, a working group*3 under TC90 held repeated discussions with experts of other standardization organizations such as IEEE in member countries. As a result, on August 2017, the IEC issued new international standards for superconducting sensors (IEC 61788-22-1)*4.


*1:METI conducted the project (international standards development: international standardization for superconducting sensors) by commissioning it to the International Superconductivity Technology Center from FY2012 to FY2014.

*2:IEC/TC90, in which Japan serves as the secretariat, has been promoting international standardization concerning superconductivity and has issued 22 IEC standards and technical reports to date, 20 of which standards were proposed by Japan.

*3:IEC-TC90/WG14, in which Mr. Masataka Okubo, senior innovation coordinator, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) served as the convener (coordinator) of the working group.

*4:IEC 61788-22-1 SUPERCONDUCTIVITY - Part 22-1: Superconducting electronic devices - Generic specification for sensors and detectors

2. Outline of the international standards

The international standards mainly stipulate the following criteria:

  1. Terminology and classifications of superconducting sensors
    This criterion covers the definitions of terminology and classifications of types by intended uses of the sensors and operating principle.
  2. Nomenclature system for superconducting sensors and detectors
    This criterion stipulates rules whereby the names of these technologies should be determined in the order of classifications in (1) above, namely, [ⅰ] a term of structures and functions, [ⅱ] a term of measuring objects, and [ⅲ] a category of devices: detector, magnetometer, mixer, sensor, etc.
  3. Marking (identification of types of superconducting sensors)
  4. Reference information on structures and operating principles by type of superconducting sensors
  5. Graphical symbols for superconducting sensors

3. Effects brought about by the issuance of the international standards

The issuance of the international standards is expected to contribute to smooth communication between manufacturers of superconducting sensors and those of instruments equipped with the sensors, thereby improving productivity and functionality of devices to which such sensors are applied.

Moreover, the graphical symbols described with the standards have been approved by the IEC as general-purpose symbols applicable in a variety of other international standards. Therefore, the IEC decided to list these symbols in the international standards for graphical symbols*5, *6. This listing is expected to facilitate the use of these symbols for general purposes in technical specifications and educational programs in the field of superconducting electronics.


*5:Since September 2016, these symbols have been listed in the database on graphical symbols for use on equipment under the Joint IEC 60417 and ISO 7000 collection - Graphical Symbols for Use on Equipment.

*6:The IEC is now advancing the work of listing these symbols in the database on graphical symbols for diagrams under the IEC60617 - Graphical Symbols for Diagrams.


Release date

August 30, 2017

Division in Charge

International Electrotechnology Standardization Division, Industrial Science and Technology Policy and Environment Bureau

Related website

Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry1-3-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8901, Japan Tel: +81-(0)3-3501-1511
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