The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is the UK`s national measurement institute and is a world-leading centre of excellence in developing and applying the most accurate measurement standards, science and technology available to modern society. For more than a century NPL has developed and maintained the nation`s primary measurement standards. These standards underpin an infrastructure of traceability throughout the UK and the world that ensures accuracy and consistency of measurement.

Company details

Hampton Road , Teddington , Middlesex TW11 0LW United Kingdom

Locations Served

Business Type:
Laboratory
Industry Type:
Monitoring and Testing - Analytical Services
Market Focus:
Globally (various continents)

This company also provides solutions for other industrial applications.
Please, visit the following links for more info:

Industrial requirements are increasingly driven by stringent legislation on environmental control and by the need for improved process efficiencies. We serve a wide range of industries, key amongst which are:

Each industry has its unique set of requirements calling on a variety of NPL’s services.

Oil & Gas Refineries 

Oil and gas refineries operate within a complex environment of a variety of volatile products and chemicals. The emission of gases from refineries’ process plants and combustion units is tightly controlled by environmental and health& safety legislation.

  • DIAL. A problem in reducing air pollution from release of volatile organic carbons (VOCs) by petroleum refineries and crude oil stores is the difficulty of measuring the concentration of these gases at the point of release. NPL scientists use their own pioneering technique - DIAL (differential absorption lidar) - a highly flexible way of measuring air quality). A pioneering study with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) enabled development of a new approach to air quality regulation within the oil and gas sector. 

DIAL is a self-contained mobile laboratory which uses laser technology to collect real-time data for any gaseous species with characteristic absorptions in UV-VIS-NIR spectral regions including: SO2, NO2, NO, ozone, benzene, toluene, xylene and higher aromatics, alkanes, alkenes, petroleum and diesel vapours, HCl, N2O, HF and H2.

NPL has a track record of DIAL’s successful use for routine monitoring for compliance with legislation in the US and Europe, and for emergency deployment to pinpoint the source of benzene leaks at a European refinery. The DIAL technique can be used for a number of refinery applications:

Remote measurements into inaccessible, hazardous or elevated areas 

Wide area surveys of diffuse sources, e.g. the entire refinery site 

Measurement of total site emissions, including flares and tanks 

Boundary fence monitoring 

Identification and quantification of leaks and fugitive emissions 

Plume tracking and source identification from complex industrial plant 

Environmental impact assessment 

Stack Testing. NPL has a dedicated team dedicated to accurate monitoring and characterisation of stack emissions. NPL provides an international, professional and competitively priced MCERTS/UKAS accredited stack monitoring and compliance testing service utilising industry standard techniques.

  Key operational features of the services include:

Quantification of emissions in accordance with EPR (formerly IPPC), IED, LCP and WI regulations 

One of the largest shares in the market for the validation/calibration of continuous emission monitors (CEMS) to BS EN 14181 and BS EN 13284-2, including QAL2, AST and Linearity Testing 

MCERTS accreditation to EN 15267-3 to meet the requirements of performance standards and test procedures for continuous emission monitoring systems (gaseous, particulate and flow-rate) in the field 

Advice on emission abatement, process optimisation and state-of-the-art process monitoring techniques 

Process efficiency trials (commissioning and optimisation) 

Turbine and burner optimisation 

Comprehensive data analysis interpretation and reporting 

Training and guidance for operators in relation to MCERTS requirements, BS EN 14181 requirements, permitting queries and operator monitoring assessment (OMA) 

UKAS accredited analytical laboratories for stack testing samples 

Stack Testing Proficiency Testing Scheme. NPL Environmental Measurements Group organises a range of UKAS accredited (0016) proficiency testing (PT) schemes in the stack measurements area. NPL is a global leader in the provision of proficiency testing schemes; schemes are available in the areas of stack emissions, environmental radioactivity and gas metrology. 

There are two stack emission schemes in operation: 

o Particulate 

o Gas Measurement and Gas Cylinder

o See the web site

Terminals and Tank Farms

Terminals and tank farms are a complicated mix of storage and handling facilities usually spread over a wide area. The variation in feedstocks and finished products bring their own complications in complying with environmental and safety considerations. NPL emissions monitoring teams are MCERTS certified and UKAS accredited with wide onshore and offshore experience of terminals and tank farm monitoring:

DIAL Remote Emissions surveys of methane emissions at LNG terminals and tank farms.

NPL's mobile DIAL facility can remotely measure pollutants in the air from the way visible, UV and IR laser pulses interact with gases in the air. NPL used DIAL to show that, whereas emissions from tanks of petroleum products were close to what was predicted by AP-42 (the industry standard method of estimating emissions), VOC emissions from crude oil storage tanks were several times greater than AP-42 predicted at the time of measurement.

Sampling and analysis of complex volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emissions from tankers and similar vessels. 

Collection and analysis techniques include passivated canisters, pumped or passive sorbent tubes, automated thermal desorption (ATD), gas chromatography (GC) and mass spectrometry (MS). 

Emissions monitoring of gas turbines.

Fugitive Emissions form storage tanks and API separators

Tanker emission monitoring

Landfill

Landfill gas is an inevitable by-product of anaerobic decomposition of organic waste, and the primary constituent methane is a potentially valuable energy source and a potent greenhouse gas. However, the gas may also contain toxic chemicals and gases such as carbon dioxide and traces of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can produce odour or be harmful to health. If not monitored and managed, gas can migrate through the soil and escape outside the site boundaries. NPL’s experienced staff can design monitoring campaigns; provide expertise and advice on optimum sampling techniques; and provide comprehensive data analysis, reporting and interpretation. We also have specialised services, such as which provides a ‘visual map’ showing the location and concentration of landfill methane emissions.

DIAL Landfill Gas Surveys. NPL’s sophisticated remote sensing system provides rapid, accurate measurements of airborne atmospheric pollutants at a range up to 1km. DIAL is particularly useful for measurements of emissions from landfill sites. The system is a completely self-contained mobile laboratory monitoring meteorological parameters and gas concentrations. Taken together, DIAL provides a 3D visual map showing the location and concentration of landfill methane emissions and the mass emission rate for the methane loss to atmosphere. In many studies DIAL has been shown to be the most comprehensive and cost effective approach to monitoring emissions from landfills (DEFRA report: Measurements of Methane Emissions and Surface Methane Oxidation at Landfills s WR1125; 2012)

Sampling and analysis of VOCs

NPL offers a complete service, accredited by UKAS to ISO 17025, for the sampling and analysis of complex VOC mixture ranging from source emissions to ambient concentrations. Sample collection and analysis techniques include passivated canisters, pumped or passive sorbent tubes, soil probes, automated thermal desorption (ATD), gas chromatography (GC) and mass spectrometry.

Aspergillus fumigatus bioaerosol monitoring

Bioaerosols are airborne particles (usually less than 20μm in diameter) consisting of, or originating from microorganisms. NPL has developed a faster and more efficient method for monitoring the emissions of Aspergillus fumigatus from landfill and composting sites, based on cyclone air sampling and qPCR: a molecular biology technique which amplifies and simultaneously quantifies a targeted DNA molecule. The key advantages of this monitoring service over traditional microbiological methods are shorter sampling and analysis times; high sensitivity; and a better detection range. The technique is species specific and detects total spore count (viable and non-viable spores). This helps to differentiate background spore levels from site specific emissions.

Power stations.

Conventional thermal power stations are in the vanguard of efforts to control atmospheric emissions. NPL provide services power station operators to confirm their compliance with regulations and to maintain and improve generation efficiency.

Stack Testing. NPL has a dedicated team dedicated to accurate monitoring and characterisation of stack emissions. NPL provides an international, professional and competitively priced MCERTS/UKAS accredited stack monitoring and compliance testing service utilising industry standard techniques.

  Key operational features of the services include:

Quantification of emissions in accordance with EPR (formerly IPPC), IED, LCP and WI regulations 

One of the largest shares in the market for the validation/calibration of continuous emission monitors (CEMS) to BS EN 14181 and BS EN 13284-2, including QAL2, AST and Linearity Testing 

MCERTS accreditation to EN 15267-3 to meet the requirements of performance standards and test procedures for continuous emission monitoring systems (gaseous, particulate and flow-rate) in the field 

Advice on emission abatement, process optimisation and state-of-the-art process monitoring techniques 

Process efficiency trials (commissioning and optimisation) 

Turbine and burner optimisation 

Comprehensive data analysis interpretation and reporting 

Training and guidance for operators in relation to MCERTS requirements, BS EN 14181 requirements, permitting queries and operator monitoring assessment (OMA) 

UKAS accredited analytical laboratories for stack testing samples 

Emission Trading Standard. NPL’ steam of emission specialists are frequently called upon to assist customers with ETS trading issues. Years of accumulated experience can be brought to focus on specific problems on a consultancy basis.

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The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is the UK’s National Measurement Institute and is a world-leading centre of excellence in developing and applying the most accurate measurement standards, science and technology available to man. For more than a century NPL has developed and maintained the nation’s primary measurement standards. These standards underpin an infrastructure of traceability throughout the UK and the world that ensures accuracy and consistency of measurement.

NPL ensures that cutting edge measurement science and technology have a positive impact in the real world. NPL delivers world-leading measurement solutions that are critical to commercial research and development, and support business success across the UK and the globe.

Good measurement improves productivity and quality; it underpins consumer confidence and trade and is vital to innovation. We undertake research and share our expertise with government, business and society to help enhance economic performance and the quality of life.

NPL’s measurements help to save lives, protect the environment, enable citizens to feel safe and secure, as well as supporting international trade and companies to innovation. Support in areas such as the development of advanced medical treatments and environmental monitoring helps secure a better quality of life for all.

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To deliver the highest economic and social impact as a world-leading National Measurement Institute through excellent responsive science and knowledge services.

So what does this mean?

We believe that our research must be relevant; to ensure this we regularly run road-mapping workshops. These workshops are focused on science and technology challenges highlighted by the Government. They cover areas such as environmentally friendly transport, bioscience and healthcare, intelligent connected world and a secure environment.

The workshops invite industry, Government departments and other organisations to share their expectations of the future and capture barriers to the innovation needed to achieve them. From these, we outline the measurement and standards requirements enabling NPL to develop responsive and relevant research programmes of the highest calibre.

NPL Mission

As the UK’s National Measurement Institute, NPL’s mission is:

  • Excellence in science
  • Increased exploitation of that science to boost UK competitiveness and quality of life
  • Integrity and independence as a national asset
  • Enhanced international standing

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NPL’s reputation – which is world leading – relies upon great people and exceptional scientists.

For over 100 years we have employed physicists, mathematicians, engineers, and more recently chemists and biologists working on measurement science and the many wider areas that this leads us to.

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is the UK’s National Measurement Institute (NMI). NPL’s core measurement role impacts everyone in everyday life.

NPL the UK’s National Measurement Institute

NPL was established in 1900 and is a world-leading centre of excellence in developing and applying the most accurate measurement standards, science and technology available to humanity.

View more information about NPL's role as an NMI

The National Measurement System (NMS)

NPL sits at the heart of the National Measurement System. We are the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) main provider of the measurement and materials research programmes and infrastructure, working with business to ensure the measurement accuracy vital to the UK economy.

View more information about the NMS

Why is measurement important?

It is almost impossible to describe anything accurately or conduct our day without the use of measurement.

NPL ensures that cutting edge measurement science and technology has a positive impact in the real world.

See how measurement plays a vital role in everyday life

Beyond measurement

NPL has over 100 years of experience in the development and application of measurement techniques, but the pursuit of measurement has often taken us beyond our core measurement discipline. NPL now employs scientists from almost every discipline from physicists to biochemists, from mathematicians to material scientists.

These passionate scientists deliver solutions to a wide range of problems for government, industry and other organisations.

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Ask anyone if they have heard of the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and some may recall standard measures from their schooldays. 

But mostly NPL is immortalized as the place that tested the bouncing bomb. This is thanks to the war movie – The Dam Busters – partly filmed at NPL.

Some of the amazing things that have happened at NPL since opening in 1900, include:

  • building of the famous ship tank (where the bouncing bomb was tested),
  • building of the first working atomic clock,
  • fixing Big Ben,
  • weighing Concorde.

Our customers cover a wide range of sectors, technologies and applications. You will be amazed at the breadth of our services, built on 100 years of leadership in accuracy, innovation and scientific research.

NPL's Key Sectors

  • Advanced Manufacturing
    Outline of NPL's capabilities in the Advanced Manufacturing & Design sector.
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  • Aerospace, Defence & Security
    New threats need new capabilities to respond to them. NPL has had success responding to these new threats, based upon over 100 years of measurement and materials research and adapting technologies developed from other scientific applications.
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  • Environmental Monitoring
    Environmental measurement scientists at NPL provide high quality, cost effective pollution monitoring and analysis services.
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  • Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
    Information about NPL's capabilities and services in the Healthcare sector.
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  • Nuclear
    NPL’s unique position at the intersection between scientific discovery and commercial application means our customers in the nuclear industry can be the first to realise the full commercial, technical and performance benefits of new materials, measurement techniques and technologies.
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  • Space & Communications
    Central to NPL’s contribution to this enormously challenging sector is its ability to take a leadership role in all aspects of precision - taking performance to the next level.
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