NPL research helps drive forward the creation of a Digital Britain

January 4, 2012

With government plans for a Digital Britain firmly underway, the amount of data that will be sent on the internet is set to increase dramatically.

But with increased data comes the potential for increased frequency interference. This could mean data files and live "on-demand" TV services will be corrupted.

If the scientists at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) have their way, however, the development of more accurate frequency standards technology will mean that this doesn't have to be the case.

Under a European Metrology Research Programme (EMRP) jointly supported by the European Commission and the European Association of National Metrology Institutes (EURAMET), a research team at NPL's laboratories in Teddington is planning to develop more accurate frequency standards technology.

Mixed Signals

Currently, data transmitted through is sent down one of a number of internationally agreed channels operating at very specific .

Data providers need to make sure they adhere to these frequencies so that their transmitters never drift close to neighbouring channels, which could cause interference and crosstalk.

To check the long-term performance of these transmitters, manufacturers have to periodically calibrate these sources using frequency standard equipment.

But the relentless increase in is likely to lead to channel spacings moving closer together, increasing the demand for more accurate, on-site frequency standards technology.

Frequency Standards

Frequency standard systems that are accurate enough for industrial applications have already been developed at the NPL laboratories, but these instruments are generally too complex to be deployed in the field.

The problem is that the higher accuracy frequency standards are usually bulky and need to be operated by trained personnel. They are also not designed for extended operation in demanding industrial environments where there are often high levels of temperature fluctuations and vibration.

But if the user transmitter frequencies are going to be tested on-site at a manufacturer's premises, then the next generation of frequency standard technology needs to be able to operate in industrial environments.

The European Metrology Research Programme (EMRP)

The development of "user friendly" frequency stabilised laser sources is proposed over the next three years in a European Metrology Research Programme (EMRP) project which is being coordinated by NPL.

'We envisage an opto-electronic system within a 19 inch rack that provides an on-site frequency calibration service,' said Geoffrey Barwood, lead researcher on the project. 'We hope the system will be a turnkey standard for companies to use. If we do want to move to a Digital Britain this type of equipment becomes an essential part of the infrastructure.'

As well as NPL, this collaboration includes Spain, Denmark, Switzerland, Italy, France, Finland and Germany. The success of the project proposal was, in part, due to the large number of letters of support received from various European companies, government agencies and standards committees emphasising the need for this equipment.

'The project is not only vital for the telecommunications and broadcast industries, but also for calibrating frequencies in areas such as aerospace, defence, instrument manufacture, gas sensing, and navigation,' said Barwood.

Explore further: Physicists develop unique new calibration tool for radio frequencies

Related Stories

When atoms collide

June 4, 2007

Scientists at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) have proposed a new way to determine accurate time faster.

NIST Measures Challenges for Wireless in Factories

August 31, 2007

Factories have much to gain from wireless technology, such as robot control, RFID tag monitoring, and local-area network (LAN) communications. Wireless systems can cost less and offer more flexibility than cabled systems. ...

First app from NPL to help researchers working in the lab

November 17, 2010

The UK's National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has released its first app for iOS devices such as iPhones and iPads. It will provide researchers with easy and up-to-date access to the values for all the physical constants.

Recommended for you

A not-quite-random walk demystifies the algorithm

December 15, 2017

The algorithm is having a cultural moment. Originally a math and computer science term, algorithms are now used to account for everything from military drone strikes and financial market forecasts to Google search results.

US faces moment of truth on 'net neutrality'

December 14, 2017

The acrimonious battle over "net neutrality" in America comes to a head Thursday with a US agency set to vote to roll back rules enacted two years earlier aimed at preventing a "two-speed" internet.

FCC votes along party lines to end 'net neutrality' (Update)

December 14, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission repealed the Obama-era "net neutrality" rules Thursday, giving internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T a free hand to slow or block websites and apps as they see fit ...

The wet road to fast and stable batteries

December 14, 2017

An international team of scientists—including several researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory—has discovered an anode battery material with superfast charging and stable operation ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.