Earth UK Space Agency grant

Nottingham physicists part of £9m Earth observation project to monitor climate

Friday, 17 May 2024

Physicists from the University of Nottingham are part of a £9m project to enhance the ability to monitor the Earth’s atmosphere and measure critical emissions.

Delivered by the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI), which brings together UK expertise from industry and academia, there are 12 projects that will enhance the ability to monitor Earth's atmosphere, and measure critical emissions, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrogen dioxide.

The University of Nottingham’s School of Physics is part of one of the 12 projects to receive funding from the UK Space Agency. The project, led by RAL Space, will use quantum technology to build a new generation of sensors that can accurately measure the density of the Earth's atmosphere. This will support better predictions of small satellite trajectories and re-entries. The project will build a fully functional breadboard to demonstrate the concept.

Nottingham has a long history in the understanding, control and technological application of magnetic fields. For the past decade, we have been developing magnetic field-shaping systems for quantum technologies that enable gravity, acceleration, and magnetic fields themselves to be measured with unprecedented sensitivity. This new collaboration using cold atoms in space to monitor Earth's atmosphere and climate change is an exciting real-world application of the quantum technology components that we have developed.
Professor Mark Fromhold, Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy

The UK is a world leader in Earth observation, having pledged £314 million to Earth observation programmes as part of a record £1.8 billion investment in the European Space Agency (ESA).

Andrew Griffith MP, Minister for Space at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said: “This exciting new generation of satellite instruments, backed by £9 million in government funding, will play a key part in our efforts to tackle climate change, pinpointing where emissions are highest on our planet and cementing UK leadership in Earth observation, while helping to attract more private investment into this fast-growing sector.”

“Earth observation is a vitally important way for us to measure human impact on our planet, as well as monitoring climate, natural disasters, and weather. RAL Space has a strong heritage in developing novel instruments to meet scientific and societal needs, so it's fantastic to see four of our ongoing projects recognised with CEOI funding. The diversity of these applications, from quantum sensing to millimetre-wave technology, really show the broad range of technology development we lead, and puts us in a brilliant position to grow the UK's Earth observation capabilities as part of the vision of the National Space Strategy.
Dr Jane Hurley, Head of Earth Observation and Atmospheric Science at RAL Space

Story credits

More information is available from Professor Mark Fromhold on

Jane Icke - Media Relations Manager Science
Phone: 0115 7486462

Notes to editors:

About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.

Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.

We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.

More news…

Media Relations - External Relations

The University of Nottingham
YANG Fujia Building
Jubilee Campus
Wollaton Road
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5798