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Surface technology

International standardisation and best practice

Ensuring methods and materials meet accredited standards required by industry

We are leading the development of international documentary standards for surface chemical analysis, nanotechnologies, analysis of particles and graphene and other 2D materials. Documentary standards, certified reference materials and traceability are important to ensure that measurements are comparable between laboratories, that data is defendable and that materials meet accredited standards required by industry. We support innovation, measurement comparability and trade.  

NPL is very active in international standardisation and pre-normative activities for surface technologies, nanotechnologies, particles and 2D materials. We lead the development of many ISO, CEN and IEC documentary standards and lead and participate in pre-normative international interlaboratory studies particularly under VAMAS. We provide consultancy, advice and information on developing standards and pre-standardisation testing to ensure your measurement methods or products are compliant and internationally competitive.

International Standards Organisation (ISO)

We participate and take leadership roles in three ISO technical committees (TC) on surface chemical analysis and nanotechnologies.

  • ISO TC 201 Surface chemical analysis
    This includes standardisation of terminology, general procedures, data management and treatment, depth profiling, Auger electron spectroscopy, Secondary ion mass spectrometry, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, glow discharge spectroscopy, TRXF, optical interface analysis, and scanning probe microscopy and atomic force microscopy.
  • ISO TC 229 Nanotechnologies
    This covers terminology and nomenclature, measurement and characterisation, health, safety and environmental aspects of nanotechnologies and material specifications.  We lead the development of standards in terminology and measurement and characterisation including several on  graphene and 2D materials.
  • ISO TC24/SC4 particle characterisation.
  • CEN TC 352 European nanotechnologies standardisation

ISO terminology

The consistent use of terminology is an important component of accurate and reproducibility reporting of results. ISO provides a free online browsing platform which lists all ISO defined terms from all published ISO standards (click "Terms & Definitions" button) from the different fields so that they may be compared. At NPL, we lead the development of terminology in surface chemical analysis and nanotechnologies, including 2D materials.

Vocabulary for surface chemical analysis (>1000 terms)

To minimise confusion and encourage consistency, a consensus set of terminology for surface analysis has been developed by ISO TC 201 on Surface Chemical Analysis. This surface chemical analysis vocabulary provides the definitions for more than 1000 surface chemical analysis terms in a three-part ISO International Standard. These terms can be accessed at no charge through the links included below.

  1. ISO 18115-1:2013(E) - Surface chemical analysis - Vocabulary - Part 1, General terms and terms used in spectroscopy 
    • Definitions of the surface analysis methods
    • Definitions of terms for surface analysis
    • Definitions of terms for multivariate analysis. 
  2. ISO 18115-2:2013(E) - Surface chemical analysis - Vocabulary - Part 2, Terms used in scanning-probe microscopy 
    • ​Definitions of the scanned probe microscopy methods
    • Acronyms and terms for contact mechanics models
    • Terms for scanning probe methods. 
  3. ISO18115-3:2022(E) - Surface chemical analysis - Vocabulary - Part 3, Terms used in optical interface analysis
    • ​Definitions of the scanned probe microscopy methods
    • Acronyms and terms for contact mechanics models
    • Terms for scanning probe methods. 

These documents, available for free from the links above cover the terms used in surface analysis spectroscopies such as Auger electron spectroscopy (AES), secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and many similar methods as well as in the scanned probe microscopies (SPM) such as atomic force microscopy (AFM), scanning near-field optical microscopy (SNOM), scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM) and many similar methods. New to the revised 2023 version are terms related to atom probe tomography (APT). Because it is important for analysts, researchers and students to communicate clearly and unambiguously, these definitions are now freely available from the ISO using the above links to the documents or through the ISO portal.
When the documents are addressed through the links a table of contents listing general topic areas will appear to help locate terminology of interest.

Vocabulary for Nanotechnologies and 2D materials

The ISO 80004 vocabulary series is a multi-part ISO standard providing terms and definitions in nanotechnologies. NPL has led the development of part 6 on nano-object characterisation and part 13 on graphene and related 2D materials. The below lists several of the 80004 series which can be accessed for free following the links below:

ISO 80004-1:2023 Nanotechnologies - Vocabulary - Part 1: Core vocabulary

  • Core terms related to nanotechnologies. This includes terms such as nanoscale, nanotechnology, nanomaterial, nano-object
  • Terms related to particles and assemblies of particles. This includes terms such as particle, agglomerate, aggregate, NOAA
  • Terms related to nano-objects. This includes nanotube, nanofibre, nanoparticle
  • Terms related to the description of nanostructured material
  • Terms related to the categories of nanostructured material
  • Terms related to coatings, layers, films and membranes. This includes film, coating, foil.
  • Terms related to nanocoatings, nanolayers, nanofilms and related terms

ISO/TS 80004-6:2013 Nanotechnologies - Vocabulary - Part 6: Nano-object characterisation

  • Terms related to size and shape measurement. This includes measurands, scattering techniques, aerosol characterisation, microscopy, and surface area measurement.
  • Terms related to chemical analysis
  • Terms related to measurement of other properties.  This includes measurement of mass, crystallinity, and charge. 

ISO/TS 80004-13:2017(en) Nanotechnologies - Vocabulary - Part 13: Graphene and related two-dimensional (2D) materials

  • Terms related to materials. This includes terms and definitions for 2D material, graphene, graphite, few-layer graphene, graphene nanoplatelet,
  • Terms related to methods for producing 2D materials. This includes CVD, mechanical exfoliation, Hummers method
  • Terms related to methods for characterising 2D materials. This includes AFM, SPM, Raman spectroscopy, XPS, XRD.
  • Terms related to 2D materials characteristics. This includes defect, point defect, turbostratic stacking, oxygen content
  • Abbreviated terms. This includes 1LG, FLG, 2D

Versailles Project on Advanced Materials and Standards (VAMAS)

We undertake and lead pre-standardisation international   interlaboratory studies through various VAMAS technical working areas (TWAs).  VAMAS supports world trade in products dependent on advanced materials technologies, through international collaborative projects aimed at providing the technical basis for harmonised measurements, testing, specifications, and standards. We lead projects in:

Consultative committee for amount of substance (CCQM)

We are active in the CCQM committee and especially the Surface Analysis Working Group (SAWG), which promotes worldwide uniformity in units of measurement.

Contact us

Lead researcher

Charles Clifford

Principal scientist

Charles is a principal scientist in the Surface Technologies Group.

View Charles Clifford

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