National Physical Laboratory

In the Materials lab Advanced Materials

The Materials Division undertakes cutting-edge research for advanced processing and performance of materials, enabling improved materials selection, lifetime management and support of emerging technologies.

News & Events


It's the little things that make Christmas special, and with this in mind, NPL has created the world's smallest Christmas card.

Mark Gee, Fellow at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), discusses new ways to assess and reduce erosion from water impact in an article for Adjacent Open Access.

New high-temperature solid particle erosion test facility at NPL and the benefits it offers the aircraft industry featured in Aerospace Testing International magazine.

New apprenticeship standard for Metrology Technicians approved by government.

NPL has been awarded a new contract by Sharing in Growth UK Ltd to continue supporting the aerospace industry through its Product Verification Programme.

NPL has worked with Tech21 in an industry-first collaboration to deliver quality assurance.

The NPL Product Verification team has recently completed a successful Nadcap Gap Analysis with Aeromet International Ltd

Memorandum of Understanding signed between NPL and Imperial College London

Emeritus NPL Fellow, Bryan Roebuck, talks about his work in powder metallurgy on a Materials Today podcast

NPL has performed its first off-site X-ray residual stress measurement service for engineering company, Siemens

After many years under the Lifetime Management of Materials name, the National Corrosion Service returns to its original and more recognisable identity

NGF EUROPE Limited wins the Queen's Award for Enterprise in Innovation 2014, for its Glass Cord technology

NPL and the Science & Technology Facilities Council have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance our knowledge of advanced materials

Investment in product verification to help supply chain profit: NPL wins £4.4 million contract as part of ambitious Sharing in Growth programme

NPL supports new Centres for Doctoral Training

NPL links up with HSSMI

EMRP project selected to organise international symposium in E-MRS
The European Materials Research Society (EMRS) Spring Meeting attracts over 2,000 scientists and engineers every year with a combination of technical and plenary sections and a large industrial exhibition. In 2011 there were more than 3,000 participants from 62 countries. Members of EMRP Thin Films, with support from EMRP TreND, applied for and were accepted to organise a full symposium in the EMRS Spring Meeting 2014.
Further information about the symposium

Measuring active catalyst area in fuel cells
A novel in situ diagnostic technique has been developed at NPL that makes possible for the first time monitoring of the active area of platinum catalyst in each individual cell in a polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell stack. This provides a powerful new tool for the study of critical degradation mechanisms such as catalyst poisoning, carbon support corrosion and catalyst sintering.
A joint paper by NPL and Johnson Matthey on this work has recently been accepted for publication in the Journal of Power Sources.

MEMS technology for energy harvesting
An article in leading publication New Electronics describes recent research from NPL - applying a new MEMS device for the in situ rapid evaluation of the piezoelectric properties of thin films or micro structured components, to MEMS energy harvesting technology.
The full article can be read in New Electronics

Improving MEMS commercial applications

First precise MEMS output measurement technique unveiled

Big photos of little coins

Case Studies

Four-point Bend Test

NPL helped develop a 4-point bend test tailored to the needs of the oil and gas industry. This will enable the reliable evaluation of materials used for extracting and transporting oil from wells.

Warmer wetsuits
NPL has performed laboratory and field-based tests for UK wetsuit manufacturer, Spartan, to help further their knowledge of how wetsuits keep people warm.

See more case studies >>

Materials technology is vital to industrial competitiveness, energy security, sustainability and innovation across all sectors, including healthcare and the environment.

Underpinning future requirements is the need to develop novel materials with tailored properties, to make radical advances in materials processing, to optimise manufacturing and engineering through knowledge-based design, and to establish innovative tools for predicting and characterising performance.

The underlying challenge is to characterise processes at an increasingly localised scale to enable prediction and manipulation of macroscopic behaviour and the production of materials and systems with managed properties.

Advanced measurement techniques are being established at NPL (including 3D-t imaging, in-situ and on-line characterisation, and novel nano-probes), coupled with modelling to support developments in:

  • Multi-functional materials, nanomaterials, fuel cells, electronic interconnects, organic electronics, organic photovoltaics and catalysis
  • Composites materials for aerospace and wind turbines
  • Coatings and surface engineered materials
  • Lifetime prediction of materials for power engineering and oil and gas extraction in increasingly harsh environments.

Recent Publications

Feasibility of moisture and humidity determination using optical fibre sensing in polymer matrix composites. Lodeiro, M J, Young, T, Gower (2013)

Gradient WC-Co hardmetals : theory and practice . Konyashin, I*, Ries, B*, Lachmann, F*, Fry, A T(2013)

Plasma treatment as a method for functionalising and improving dispersion of carbon nanotubes in epoxy resins. Williams, J*, Broughton, W R, Koukoulas, T, Rahatekar, S S* (2013)

Processing of an ultrafine-grained titanium by high-pressure torsion: an evaluation of the wear properties with and without a TiN coating. Wang, C T*, Gao, N*, Gee, M G, Wood, R J K*, Langdon, T G*(2013)

Neutral and charged oxygen vacancies induce two-dimensional electron gas near SiO2/BaTiO3 interfaces. Kimmel, A V*, Iniguez, J*, Cain, M G, Sushko, P V*(2013)

In situ observation of crack growth in a WC-Co hardmetal and characterisation of crack growth morphologies by EBSD. Mingard, K P, Jones, H G, Gee, M G, Roebuck, B, Nunn, J W(2013)

Vertical comb drive actuator for the measurement of piezoelectric coefficients in small-scale systems. Wooldridge, J, Muniz-Piniella, A, Stewart, M, Shean, T A V, Weaver, P M, Cain, M G(2013)

Imaging size effects on the electrocatalytic activity of gold nanoparticles using scanning electrochemical microscopy. Wain, A J (2013)

Tribology testing of ultrafine-grained Ti processed by high-pressure torsion with subsequent coating. Wang, C T*, Gao, N*, Gee, M G, Wood, R J K*, Langdon, T G*(2013)

Good Practice Guides

Materials good practice guides aim to improve measurement understanding and technical abilities across the UK and the rest of the world. They describe good current practice and are produced with technical input from specialists in the particular subject covered.

Click here for good practice guides



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