Sign up for NPL updates
Sign up for NPL updates

Receive regular emails from NPL to get a glimpse of our activities and see how our experts are informing and influencing scientific debate


Surface technology

We measure the physical and chemical properties of surfaces, ranging from biological samples to electronic components

Understanding materials at the micron and nanoscale

Surface analysis techniques are key to the understanding and characterisation of surfaces used in advanced technology and innovation in industries such as aerospace, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, health and electronics. Our world-leading surface technology research has helped industry to use new materials with confidence. We have developed more efficient catalysts, improved the delivery of drugs and supported the development of graphene.

Our expertise is based upon the underpinning scientific research we perform to support innovation, trade and industrial competitiveness, making this emerging research area accessible for real-world applications. We offer cost-effective solutions to a wide range of problems in areas such as graphene, polymers, sensors, biofilms and nanoparticles using the latest instrumentation.

Contact us

Advanced materials metrology strategy

Discover how we are identifying how critical drivers of change, including the energy and the digital transitions, require innovation in measurement capability and a new approach to delivering the UK materials metrology infrastructure.

Download the strategy

Our research

We deliver solutions in world-class research facilities, with state-of-the-art techniques for surface analysis under vacuum, ambient or liquid environment. We specialise in:

Structural and chemical characterisation of graphene

We are helping industry to take advantage of emerging materials and their valuable properties

Measuring surface and thin film chemistry

We accurately measure the chemistry of material surfaces

Label-free chemical imaging

We use vibrational spectroscopic imaging to characterise complex samples

Particles and nanoparticles

We develop techniques to analyse the smallest of materials to help industry rapidly realise their potential

Standardisation and best practice

We create international standards for surface materials to ensure compatibility and confidence

Our services

We offer a range of services to help industries to identify and put extremely small materials to use, even at the micro and nano level, including particle analysis and surface chemical analysis. Our experts have developed state-of-the-art techniques to enable the high resolution study and analysis of elements and purity, among many other features.

Case study

Optimising diagnostic beads for improved antibiotic treatment


Case study

Quantifying moisture in failed spent AGR fuel pins


Case study

Reliable temperature measurement of nuclear material packages


Our resources

We have a number of freely-available publications, good practice guides and e-learning on nanoparticle surface chemistry. Search our comprehensive list of resources.



Our team

Our world-leading measurement experts collaborate with academia, scientific institutes and industry from around the world, supporting fundamental science and commercial innovation.
View our team