Research Activities


The main aim of the Laboratory is to strengthen and advance physics-based research and development for the overall development of science and technology in the country.  In particular, its objectives are:

  • To establish, maintain and improve continuously by research, for the benefit of the nation, the National Standards of Measurements and to realize the Units, based on the International System
  • To identify and conduct, after due consideration, research in areas of physics which are most appropriate to the needs of the nation and for advancement of the field
  • To assist industries, national and other agencies in their development tasks by precision measurements, calibration, development of devices, processes and other allied problems related to physics

Over the years, the Laboratory has more than realized its primary mandate as the keeper of Measurement Standards for the nation while also substantially expanding its research activities to emerge as a leading national institution for research in a whole gamut of areas in the Physical Sciences.

Outline of Research Activities at CSIR-NPL

In order to realize these objectives, the Laboratory’s research & development programme is currently divided into three main research centres :

(i) Centre of Materials

(ii) Centre of Radio and Atmospheric Sciences &

(iii) Centre of Metrology

The R & D activities of these research centres are carried out under different scientific research divisions of the Laboratory, namely :

  • Physics of Energy Harvesting
  • Materials Physics & Engineering
  • Radio & Atmospheric Sciences
  • Time Frequency & Electrical Standards
  • Apex Level Standards & Industrial Metrology
  • Quantum Phenomena & Applications
  • Sophisticated and Analytical Instruments

(i) Centre of Materials

Over the years, the CSIR-NPL has grown into a national centre of materials pursuing R & D work on a wide range of materials, products and devices. Its materials characterization facilities, required for studying and analyzing materials for purity, composition, structure and perfection, are comparable to the best in the world.  It commands state-of-the-art instruments and experimental facilities as well as excellent physical, technical and computing infrastructure for the purpose.  The Laboratory has earned a reputation for developing novel materials with exotic properties that have strategic, economic and societal impact. This core strength has also enabled it to establish linkages with the country’s industry and top academic institutions and laboratories for collaborative programmes, sponsored research and consultancy. Currently the Laboratory has several on-going research and development programmes in diversified areas of materials research to develop high performance materials for strategic, societal and industrial applications.

Currently, the research in Centre of Materials is focused on the development of advanced materials and technologies for energy harvesting related to improved solar cells, efficient lighting, variety of engineering materials including nanomaterials & their nanocomposites, superconducting materials, quantum phenomena at low temperatures and development of their related devices.  The main thrust areas include (a) Physics of Energy Harvesting (b) Materials Physics & Engineering and (c) Quantum Phenomenon & their Applications.  The areas of materials research include silicon solar cells, a-Si:H and microcrystalline solar cells, organic & hybrid solar cells, thermoelectric materials and devices, organic & inorganic LEDs, polymer & soft materials, carbon-based materials, CNT & their composites, polymer & soft materials, conducting polymers, bio and gas-sensors, luminescent materials, multiferroics and magnetic materials, optical thin films, advanced ceramics, light-weight metals & alloys, composites, nanocomposites, Josephson junction & single electron tunneling, quantum transport in thin film hetrostructures and superconductivity & cryogenics.

(ii) Centre of Radio and Atmospheric Sciences

An important area of research at the CSIR-NPL is study of the physics, chemistry and the dynamics of earth’s atmosphere for increasing our knowledge and understanding of atmospheric changes and their causes, as well as their impact on the propagation of radio-waves and on the earth’s environment. This centre has been able to establish state-of-the-art instrumentation and experimental facilities for supporting a series of atmospheric studies, such as, investigations on Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), atmospheric ozone, UV-B radiation, fog formation, transport and evolution of aerosols, radio propagation in various regions of the earth’s ionosphere, aeronomy and Antarctic atmosphere. For research in these areas, it has developed ground based and in-situ techniques for satellite, rocket and balloon borne instruments. As a result of these activities, the Laboratory is today recognized as an important centre for research in radio and atmospheric sciences in the country.

Currently, the Laboratory is participating in many national and international programmes. It is the national node for assimilation and dissemination of information on space weather alerts and for Indian Ocean Experiment (INDOEX) research data for various users. It is also the host for the START (System for Analysis, Research and Training) Regional Research Centre under the aegis of the International Council for Science (ICSU) for capacity building in global change research in South Asia. 

The main activities in this Centre are (a) Radio Physics and Applications : Characterization of the ionized and non-ionized atmospheric media over the Indian region and studies of various geophysical processes therein, in relation to ionospheric/tropospheric radio propagation for the purpose of betterment of various types of radio communication, navigation and other applications. This involves monitoring of ionospheric/tropospheric related parameters using satellites, ground and space based monitoring systems, Radars, LOS communication and mobile links etc., for generation of required data base, understanding various geophysical processes involved therein to estimate necessary corrections, improvements and  development of applicable reference models/data bases, etc. (b) Atmospheric Environment and Global Change : Characterization of the changing atmospheric environment, processes and impacts in respect of atmospheric trace constituents, green house gases and precursors, aerosols and solar radiation involving temporal and spatial (including Antarctica and Arctic) measurements, modeling, instrumentation, setting up of referral lab and creation of various data bases.

(iii) Centre of Metrology

The Laboratory has been playing significant role to ensure that the country’s economic and development activities are based on accurate and reliable measurements as mandated by the Government of India under the Standards of Weights and Measures Act of 1956 and 1976 and under the Rules of 1988. Under this Act, the Laboratory is the custodian of national standards of measurement. Accordingly, this centre carries out all metrological work for establishing, maintaining and improving the national standards of measurement for all the basic units and also undertakes the necessary work for constantly keeping them “traceable”, through an unbroken chain of calibrations, to the international standards. These include all the base units under the Système International d’Unités (the SI system of units).  Besides, it provides apex level calibration services to the nation in physico-mechanical, electrical and electronic standards so that physical measurements in the country remain traceable to the national measurement standards. CSIR-NPL has been maintaining six SI base units namely, metre (for length), kilogram (for mass), second (for time), kelvin (for temperature), ampere (for current) and candela (for luminous intensity).  It also realizes and maintains several derived units in the area of physico-mechanical and electrical and electronic parameters.

India is a signatory to CIPM’s global Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) related to national measurement standards and calibration and measurement certificates issued by the NMIs of the participating countries. The MRA is in response to the growing need for an open, transparent and comprehensive system to give users reliable and quantitative information on the compatibility of national metrology services and to provide technical basis for wider agreement for international trade. The calibration activities in these areas are periodically peer-reviewed to fulfill the requirements of the MRA.

The Centre of Metrology encompasses a range of physico-mechanical, electrical & electronic and chemical measurements, namely (a) Physico-Mechanical Standards : mass, volume, density & viscosity, length & dimension, temperature & humidity, optical radiation force, torque & hardness, vacuum and pressure, acoustics, fluid flow and ultrasonics (b) Electrical and Electronic Standards : time and frequency, Josephson voltage, DC voltage, resistance and current, DC high voltage, quantum hall resistance, AC power and energy, AC high current and high voltage, LF & HF impedance, LF & HF voltage, current and RF power, RF attenuation and impedance, magnetic standards, bio-medical measurements and (c) Chemical Metrology : certified reference materials.

New measurement facilities are continuously created and existing ones upgraded to disseminate improved measurement uncertainty to the user industries by establishing these primary/reference standards.