National Physical Laboratory

LibraryPublication highlights

The following NPL publications are just a small selection from across the laboratory that have been highlighted for their scientific contribution in 2015.

β-decay half-lives of 110 neutron-rich nuclei across the N=82 shell gap

Implications for the mechanism and universality of the astrophysical r process

Physical Review Letters

Giuseppe Lorusso et al

This international collaboration, involving 32 institutes from across the globe, furthered understanding of the creation of heavy elements by measuring the beta-decay half-lives of 110 isotopes. The new and updated values provide vital input into theoretical models that attempt to explain the production of the heavy elements found on Earth, and further our understanding of the energy released during neutron-induced fission of uranium.

Find out more about our Radioactivity research 

Signature properties of water: their molecular electronic origins

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Vlad Sokhan and Jason Crain et al

Researchers from NPL, IBM and the University of Edinburgh developed the first conceptually simple but broadly applicable model for water, based on a simplified representation of electronic and quantum mechanical effects. The method's success describing a challenging system such as water means it could be applied more generally to tackle new problems in materials science and provide insights into the molecular origin of complexity across the physical and life sciences.

Find out more about our Mathematics, Modelling & Simulation research 

In-operando high-speed tomography of lithium-ion batteries during thermal runaway

Nature Communications

Gareth Hinds et al

Researchers at NPL, UCL, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility and Imperial College London showed for the first time how heat-induced damage to lithium-ion batteries evolves in real-time and leads to failure. These results enhance our understanding of the most dangerous failure mechanism of such devices and the techniques developed could lead to major improvements in the design of lithium-ion batteries and their safety features.

Find out more about our Electrochemistry research 

Direct measurement of the half-life of 223Ra

Applied Radiation and Isotopes

Sean Collins, Andy Pearce, Kelley Ferreira, Andrew Fenwick, Paddy Regan and John Keightley

Find out more about our Radioactivity research 

Monitoring, reporting and verifying emissions in the climate economy

Nature Climate Change

Ally Barker, Chris Dimopoulos and Rod Robinson et al

Find out more about our Earth Observation & Climate research 

Structurally plastic peptide capsules for synthetic antimicrobial viruses

Chemical Science

Valeria Castelletto, Emiliana de Santis, Hasan Alkassem, Baptiste Lamarre, James Noble, Santanu Ray, Angelo Bella, Jonathan Burns and Max Ryadnov et al

Scientists from NPL and UCL converted a breast milk protein into an artificial virus that kills bacteria on contact. The team re-engineered a tiny fragment of the protein into a nanoscale building block, which self-assembles into virus-like capsules to effectively target bacteria. In addition, by replacing their viral genes with drugs or therapeutic genes, the virus-like capsules become effective tools in the pursuit of gene therapy to cure many diseases, from cancer to cystic fibrosis.

Find out more about our Biotechnology research 

Tipping point analysis of atmospheric oxygen concentration


Valerie Livina and Alistair Forbes et al

Find out more about our Mathematics, Modelling & Simulation research 

Carrier type inversion in quasi-free standing graphene: studies of local electronic and structural properties

Scientific Reports

Christos Melios, Vishal Panchal, Cristina Giusca and Olga Kazakova et al

Researchers from NPL, the University of Surrey and the Institute of Electronic Materials Technology cast a new light on the electronic properties of quasi-free standing graphene, a material that may find applications in high speed electronics, sensing and electronic applications. For the first time, the research showed the nanoscale changes of graphene's electronic and structural properties upon hydrogen intercalation, which decouples the material from its supporting substrate.

Find out more about our Quantum Detection research 

Evaluating the performance of the NPL femtosecond frequency combs: agreement at the 10-21 level


Luke Johnson, Patrick Gill and Helen Margolis

NPL demonstrated the highest level of agreement ever reported between two different types of femtosecond frequency combs - the tools used to measure the frequency of the next generation of atomic clocks. In preparation for any future redefinition of the second, it's crucial that we can accurately compare the frequencies of atomic clocks. This research demonstrates that femtosecond combs will make a negligible contribution to the uncertainty of such frequency measurements.

Find out more about our Time & Frequency research 

Comparison of extrapolated and interpolated temperature scales

From 1000 °C to 2500 °C between a national measurement institute and an ISO17025 accredited calibration laboratory


Dave Lowe and Graham Machin et al

Find out more about our Temperature & Humidity research

Annual Review

Read our 2015 annual review online or download a copy.

NPL Annual Review 2015

Read our 2015 annual review


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