National Physical Laboratory

Low Carbon Technologies

Companies producing low carbon technologies need to be able to rapidly develop products and materials and persuade investors and potential buyers of their worth.
Low carbon technologies projects

The Centre for Carbon Measurement can help to develop technologies by testing the efficiency and effectiveness of prototypes. The Centre also provides independent performance assessment and validation of products and materials. We can prove that the technologies meet regulations or independently validate claims in order to satisfy potential investors or customers. Once technologies reach market, the Centre can work with industry to develop the technical standards that facilitate adoption. SMEs can now get subsidised support for their new low carbon technologies through NPL's Technology Innovation Fund.

Case studies

Underwater acoustics for energy

Measurements of underwater noise originating from offshore wind and tidal power installations are important for monitoring any environmental effects that these man-made structures may have on the natural environment. Work was recently carried out at Sherringham Shoal offshore wind farm, located just off the coast of Norfolk, and the European Marine Energy Centre's high energy wave site in Orkney - a purpose-built test facility for developers of wave and tidal energy.

Underwater acoustics for energy

Solar panel power quality

A measurement survey we conducted showed that photovoltaic solar panels do not critically affect power quality in the electricity supply system but do cause a rise in voltage, which may bring the voltage level close to statutory limits. The results also provided clarity as to the efficiency of photovoltaics in the field and the need for independent verification of performance prior to large-scale implementation.

Solar panel power quality

Insulation standard improves confidence

We have contributed to a new European Standard (EN 16012:2012) on thermal insulation for buildings. The standard outlines how to measure the thermal performance of insulation materials that utilise reflective surfaces, such as multi-foil insulation. This will ensure that thermal properties are measured in a scientifically credible way guaranteeing fair competition and improving consumer confidence.

NPL's Hot Box facility to measure heat transfer

Hydrogen fuel put to the test

In collaboration with ITM Power, Air Products, and the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association, we developed a suite of traceable analytical methods that detect impurities in hydrogen fuel. These impurities can severely reduce the power output of fuel cells, so their accurate detection will help improve fuel cell performance.

Hydrogen fuel put to the test

Validating LED lighting technology

A European project featuring NPL will develop measurements to validate the performance of solid state lighting products such as LED lamps. These are the most efficient lighting technologies and could achieve significant energy savings, as lighting represents around 20% of global energy use. The measurements developed in the project will give consumers validated information on energy efficiency, sustainability and light characteristics such as colour rendition.

Metrology for Solid State Lighting project

Designing a Smart Grid

Poor power quality may be present in grid systems with a high level of renewable generation sources. To determine the extent of the problem, the power quality (harmonics, flicker, unbalance, dips, swells) in a grid must be carefully monitored. In some Smart Grid trials involving retrofits, 'before and after' power quality monitoring are required. We are currently leading a programme of on-site power quality tests as part of an EU project on 'Next Generation Power and Energy Measurements'. The work will provide a Demonstrator Smart Grid system with critical information to inform the grid operators or network managers of power quality and efficiency.

Next Generation Power and Energy Measurements project

Controlling a Smart Grid

The stability of distributed grid systems with renewables is difficult to determine and control compared with traditional systems due to the variable generation pattern of wind or solar power and reduced interconnection with a larger grid system. For the network to be observable and to control the energy balance, information on the number and position of measurement points and their required accuracy and reliability are key. NPL is currently working with a consortium of European partners to develop 'State Estimators' and a cost effective instrumentation infrastructure to address this issue.

Electrical Measurement

Power Quality Assessment for Harsh Environments

NPL currently provides world-leading, high-accuracy power measurements to support the electricity supply industry and has done so for over 30 years. To date, much of the work has been delivered at our laboratories. However with the development of a new 'Digitiser', this capability has now extended to allow us to deliver the same Power quality testing on site. Specifically the Digitiser enables remote monitoring that proves valuable to offshore or electrically noisy environments, where routine monitoring is more difficult.

Portable Power Analyser

New ways to Harvest Solar Power

We carry out cutting-edge research into organic photovoltaics, which use carbon-based electronics to provide flexible and cost-effective alternatives to current solar power systems. As a member of the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA) and a significant partner in a Technology Strategy Board project (SCALLOPS), NPL will use its expertise in materials science to help bring organic photovoltaics to market by improving their efficiency, cost and reliability.

Harvesting Solar energy

Measuring water in waste

The generation of electricity from waste reduces carbon emissions, increases energy security and provides extra jobs, but currently only around 2.3% of total UK electricity is generated in this way. The Centre has completed a collaborative project to develop methods of measuring the energy yield in certain types of waste, with our role being to assess the ability of a low microwave imager to identify the water content in mixed waste such as paper, wood, textiles, plastic and even stone.

Microwave imaging identifies water levels in fruit

Working with E.ON

We are helping to support the development of high efficiency power plants by collaborating with the energy company E.ON. NPL's advanced measurement capabilities are being used to validate the performance of materials in new power plant designs that could reduce the impact of burning fossil fuels.

Working with E.ON

Energy Efficient Lighting

We worked with Hyperion Lighting to validate the performance of their HT8 fluorescent lamp, designed to perform the same as a conventional lamp but use half the energy. Measurements of total light intensity, spatial and spectral characteristics, as well as the energy use of the lamps, were carried out in order to build up a full picture of the lamp's performance.

Energy efficient light, that is just as bright

Key publications

We are working with companies wanting to accelerate the development or take-up of their low carbon technologies, including smart grids, solar photovoltaics, fuel cells, building energy efficiency and power quality.

We are also working with funding bodies and investors to assure projections of carbon or energy savings from technologies and projects.

Get involved with the work of the Centre for Carbon Measurement.

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