Instruments division launches at NPL

| Industrial Sector News

The UK National Physical Laboratory sets up instruments division to provide speciality services for research, science and industry.

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the UK’s National Measurement Institute, has announced the launch of its new Instruments division, bringing its world-class measurement instruments and expertise still closer to industry, improving quality, productivity and efficiency.

As an exemplary national laboratory with over 600 measurement scientists and a unique relationship between research and industry, NPL has been supporting both public and private organisations in reaching their full potential for over a century: from scientific organisations looking to measure the fundamental forces of the universe to manufacturers looking to streamline processes and improve productivity.

In launching its Instruments Division, NPL furthers its commitment to ensure that business and commerce benefit from this expertise. It does this by providing confidence that their products and processes perform as they should and to the highest quality, and by maximising the reliability and efficiency of their systems.

Organisations like NASA, the MOD, Defra and the European Space Agency (ESA) are already benefitting from this expertise. NASA, for example, uses the most accurate machines in the world to craft the mirrors in its space telescopes. NPL was uniquely placed to create the laser systems that control and operate these machines. For the European Space Agency, NPL has developed a unique vibration test facility that underpins the performance of satellite components for European space missions. Defra has made use of new environmental monitoring techniques from NPL that track greenhouse gas emissions in 3D over large areas, allowing it to manage sites such as landfills much more effectively.

To support the continued growth of this relationship with industry, the Instruments Division will be putting £1.5m towards new machining centres and state of the art laboratories, as well as the recruitment of new engineering specialists and advanced engineering apprentices.

Dr Peter Thompson, CEO of the National Physical Laboratory said: “NPL is steeped in a rich history of measurement innovation that has laid the foundation for our modern lives. Alan Turing conceived the ACE computer here in the late 1940s, cementing the UK’s place as a leader in computing and data science. Atomic clocks were invented at NPL, making mobile communication and GPS possible.

Today, NPL supplies instruments to industry to give organisations confidence through traceability: from vibration facilities at the ESA which will help test and improve satellite performance, to environmental mobile labs which give confident measurements of greenhouse gases. The launch of our Instruments Division gives industry access to our unrivalled measurement capabilities, underpinning prosperity and productivity.”

Professor Ian Boyd, Chief Scientific Advisor, Defra, said: “Accurate monitoring of atmospheric gas emissions is a key input to sound policy decisions. NPL’s sophisticated remote sensing lab-on-wheels, DIAL, is an example of a unique instrument which has been used by Defra as a tool to provide reliable methane monitoring at landfill sites across the UK.”

Mark Wagner, Head of Test Facilities at ESA, said: “For more than a decade NPL has been a reliable partner of the ESA test centre, helping us to safeguard traceability of measurement results and investigate advanced environmental testing concepts.

Based on the scientific knowledge and profound excellence in measurement techniques at NPL, ESA entrusted the development of its new micro-vibration test facility to them. This new facility exhibits unprecedented measurement performance and will help us characterise spacecraft units on the ground with the aim of understanding their contribution to overall performance in orbit.”

Professor Jeremy Watson CBE, IET President, said: “NPL prides itself on improving technology and providing precision through a long history of making novel instruments, which has been invaluable to all areas of engineering: from advanced manufacturing to medical to environment to space.”

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