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NPL team win prestigious Royal Society of Chemistry Prize

The NPL Air Quality Networks Team, based at NPL in Teddington, have been named as a winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Technical Excellence Prize in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the chemical sciences.

5 minute read

The team, from NPL’s Air Quality & Aerosol Metrology Group, have been awarded this prize for their outstanding application of knowledge and teamwork to produce 20 years of robust, high-quality air pollutant data for three of the UK’s air quality networks, advancing science, informing policy makers, and protecting the health of the public.   

The team measure air pollution at more than 30 monitoring stations across the UK: in towns and cities, industrial settings and remote rural locations. The results they produce are made freely available to everyone via the UK-Air website: the data allows users to see if air quality targets are being met while also being used by decision makers for future policy changes, the public to get an idea of how clean the air is, and researchers to better understand the health effects of air pollution. 

Over the last 20 years the team has: 

  • Applied NPL’s measurement expertise to ensure all data produced is of the highest quality and traceable to the SI. 

  • Ensured the successful and continued operation of the networks, enabling the production of extensive and coherent datasets.  

  • Published more than 10 research papers in peer-reviewed journals which use network data to advance science. 

  • Delivering additional research activities to increase the quality and cost-effectiveness of network delivery for the Environment Agency.   

More details about the three air quality networks NPL operates for the Environment Agency - the UK Heavy Metals Network, the UK Particle Numbers and Concentrations Network and the UK Black Carbon Network - can be found here.  

After receiving the prize, they said: “The team was absolutely delighted to hear that we had been awarded such a prestigious accolade by the Royal Society of Chemistry. It’s great to be recognised for all the varied activities required to successfully operate these air quality networks over such a long period of time. This includes everything from calibrating instruments at monitoring sites to analysing samples and processing huge amounts of data. Importantly, we also use data and samples from the networks to deliver new scientific insights into air quality.”  

Scientist, James Allerton, NPL, said: “Clean air is of vital importance for our health, but the technical activity, which underpins air quality monitoring might not be noticed by the public – it’s therefore an honour to receive recognition from the RSC for our work.”  

Chris Bradshaw, Network Quality Auditor, NPL, said: “I feel incredibly privileged to be nominated to receive the award. I feel this is a testament to the dedication, hard work and knowledge of the team both through our individual strengths but also how well we have worked together over the years to maintain such a high standard. I am very proud to have been involved and been able to bring my own strengths, thoughts and ideas to enable us to maintain the quality of work over such a long period of time.”  

“We are delighted to be recognised for two decades of commitment to clean air, advancing air quality science, informing policymakers, and protecting the health of the public,” said NPL Senior Fellow, Richard Brown. “This award is a testament to the dedication of our entire team, who work tirelessly to ensure the smooth operation of the UK air quality networks that we are responsible for.”  

Senior Scientist, David Butterfield, NPL, said: “I am grateful for the recognition of over 30 years working in delivering and improving air quality measurements.”  

“Being the newest member of the team, I feel delighted and proud of winning a prestigious prize from the RSC!” said Scientist Jody Cheong. “It is wonderful to be recognised for our efforts, which motivates us to keep up the good work.”  

Assistant Scientist, NPL, Chris Robins said: “Wow!!! … what an achievement, not only on a personal level but on a team level too.”   

Air quality networks manager, NPL, Katie Williams said: “Surprised, excited, and proud! It was unexpected to find out we had been nominated, let alone winning it. It is great for our team to receive this kind of recognition for our work.” 

Dr Helen Pain, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “The chemical sciences cover a rich and diverse collection of disciplines, from fundamental understanding of materials and the living world to applications in medicine, sustainability, technology and more. By working together across borders and disciplines, chemists are finding solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. 

“Our prize winners come from a vast array of backgrounds, all contributing in different ways to our knowledge-base and bringing fresh ideas and innovations. We recognise chemical scientists from every career stage and every role type, including those who contribute to the RSC’s work as volunteers. We celebrate winners from both industry and academia, as well as individuals, teams, and the science itself. 

“Their passion, dedication and brilliance are an inspiration. I extend my warmest congratulations to them all.” 

The Royal Society of Chemistry’s prizes have recognised excellence in the chemical sciences for more than 150 years. This year’s winners join a prestigious list of past winners in the RSC’s prize portfolio, 60 of whom have gone on to win Nobel Prizes for their work, including 2022 Nobel laureate Carolyn Bertozzi and 2019 Nobel laureate John B Goodenough.  

The Research and Innovation Prizes celebrate brilliant individuals across industry and academia. They include prizes for those at different career stages in general chemistry and for those working in specific fields, as well as interdisciplinary prizes and prizes for those in specific roles.  

For more information about the RSC’s prizes portfolio, visit  

13 Jun 2024