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PML at Work

Highlights of Science and Services



Harmful Algal Blooms in Their True ColorsHarmful Algal Blooms in Their True Colors

Only certain kinds of blue-green algae release toxins to produce harmful algal blooms. A NIST collaboration is collecting data to create a library of spectral signatures, so that harmful blooms can be identified via remote sensing.




Crystal UnclearCrystal Unclear: Why Might This Uncanny Crystal Change Laser Design?

NIST researchers and colleagues have discovered a potential way to sidestep longstanding difficulties in making the crystals that are a crucial part of laser technology. But the science behind their discovery has experts scratching their heads.




Counting down to the new ampereCounting Down to the New Ampere

Very soon the ampere — the SI base unit of electrical current — will take on an entirely new identity, and NIST scientists are at work on an innovative, quantum-based measurement system that will be consistent with the impending change.




Measuring tiny forces with lightMeasuring Tiny Forces with Light

PML researchers are taking advantage of a bizarre property of light to develop devices that can create and measure minute forces, an area traditionally underserved by the metrology community.




Katharine Blodgett GebbieGebbie, Physics Visionary and Mentor to Nobel Laureates, Dies at 84

Katharine Blodgett Gebbie, a visionary physicist and senior government research administrator who supervised and mentored four Nobel laureates in physics, died August 17, 2016, in Bethesda, Maryland.




An Optical Method of Sorting Nanoparticles by SizeAn Optical Method of Sorting Nanoparticles by Size

NIST scientists have devised and modeled a unique optical method of sorting microscopic and nanoscopic particles by size, with a resolution as fine as 1 nanometer (nm) for particles of similar composition.




Compact gyroscope may turn headsNIST’s Compact Gyroscope May Turn Heads

A NIST team has demonstrated a compact atomic gyroscope design that could, with further development, be portable, low power, and accurate enough to be used for navigation.




Detecting brain waves with atomic vaporDetecting Brain Waves with Atomic Vapor

PML researchers are working on a new kind of magnetometer that can detect fields as weak as a few femtotesla (far smaller than the ion currents generate), potentially at a fraction of the cost of conventional systems.




3D Ballistics Research DatabaseNIST 3D Ballistics Research Database Goes Live

The new NIST Ballistics Toolmark Research Database, the largest open-access database of its kind, is designed to provide a statistical foundation for more reliably linking bullets to the guns that fired them.




Planck ConstantNIST's Newest Watt Balance Makes Its First Measurement of the Planck Constant

The measurement demonstrates that the balance is accurate enough to assist the international community with the redefinition of the kilogram, an event slated for 2018.




Neutron decayPhysicists Measure Something New in the Radioactive Decay of Neutrons

A physics experiment performed at NIST has enhanced scientists’ understanding of how free neutrons decay into other particles, information that could help explain the observed amounts of hydrogen and other light atoms created just after the Big Bang.




Super quantum simulatorNIST’s Super Quantum Simulator ‘Entangles’ Hundreds of Ions

NIST physicists have “entangled” or linked together the properties of up to 219 beryllium ions (charged atoms) to create a quantum simulator.




Coplanar waveguideNIST System Replicated by Chip Maker

A highly sensitive measurement system for the performance of nanoscale magnetic devices, invented and developed at NIST, was successfully replicated recently by Intel Corporation, enhancing the company’s ability to evaluate the tiny structures’ suitability for use in future computing.



Jim OlthoffSci-Fi as a Springboard to Science

PML Laboratory Directory Jim Olthoff reflects on the influence of science fiction on the appreciation of science in young minds...and older ones as well.




Million-pound weight open for businessMillion-Pound Deadweight Machine Officially Open for Business

Fully refurbished, NIST's unique 4.45 meganewton (one million pounds-force) deadweight machine is once again serving customers. The project leader discusses the colossal overhaul with photos and video.




Sulfur hexafluorideSF6 Shows Promise as Mercury Substitute

As mercury is phased out of commercial devices, researchers need to find alternative temperature reference materials. A NIST team is now developing the first-ever triple-point cell to test the practicality of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), a potential candidate.




Cold-atom pumpPowered by Quantum Cycles: Cold-Atom Pump

JQI scientists have caused a tiny cloud of cold atoms to change position without any apparent motion by its constituents. The work provides confirmation of a behavior predicted more than 30 years ago.




Laser scanner runoff3D Laser Scanner Runoff Pushes New Standard Towards the Finish Line

Scientists designed and constructed a calibration facility to evaluate proposed tests in a draft standard for 3D laser scanners. The tests were performed by major manufacturers in a NIST-hosted "runoff" this month.




Laser combingJILA Expands Capabilities of Laser ‘Combing’ Method

The powerful technique, previously limited to small, simple molecules, can now be used to identify the structures of large, complex molecules of the sort found in explosives, pharmaceuticals, fuels, and the gases around stars.




New Chip-Based Sensor Finds Power in VersatilityNew Chip-Based Sensor Finds Power in Versatility

NIST researchers have completed an early prototype for a small, chip-based sensor designed to measure radiation power, particularly in the infrared, with potential use someday in climate change studies.




Million-Pound Weightstack Restoration CompleteNIST’s Million-Pound Weight Stack Restoration is Complete

It’s official: NIST’s 4.45-million newton (equivalent to one million pounds-force) deadweight machine – the largest in the world – is back in one piece after a colossal 16-month effort to overhaul the system for the first time in 50 years.




Photonic vs. Mercury-Based Pressure SensorsHead to Head: Photonic Pressure Sensors vs. Mercury-Based Standard

A NIST research team has now thoroughly vetted the Fixed-Length Optical Cavity (FLOC) against the current U.S. mercury-based pressure standard, and found that the new photonic sensor outperforms the traditional system at low pressures.




Optical clocks synched to femtoseconds over airOptical Clocks Synched to Femtoseconds Over Air

NIST researchers have devised a way to synchronize the time of two different clocks – separated by as much as 4 km of open, turbulent air – to within a few millionths of a billionth of a second using optical light pulses.




Sequestered carbonNIST Could Help Keep Sequestered Carbon From Blowin’ in the Wind

NIST scientists have taken an important first step in validating a technique for monitoring carbon dioxide emissions from sequestration sites.




Precision Testing for MEMS AccelerometersPrecision Testing for MEMS Accelerometers

Despite the growing importance of three-axis motion sensors, there are no standardized protocols for evaluating their performance. NIST scientists, with collaborators, are completing work on a new NIST facility to test two key properties.




Precisely Sized NanocontainersNewly Patented NIST Technique Creates Precisely Sized Nanocontainers Useful for Drug Delivery

NIST researchers have received a patent for a method to create precisely sized nanometer-scale capsules, which could potentially be engineered someday to deliver anti-cancer drugs directly to tumors.




Neutron Microscope: Waiting for the Lens to ComeNeutron Microscope: Waiting for the Lens to Come

PML and collaborators, currently building the world's first workhorse neutron microscope, are reaching a new milestone: the realization of a new design for a neutron lens, whose first prototype should be ready this summer.




Improving CD-AFM Measurements from the Tip Down

Improving AFM MeasurementsPML researchers are now able to create reference samples for the minute tips of atomic force microscope (AFM) probes with uncertainties of less than 1 nm (billionth of a meter).





Testing design for prototype breast tissue mimicNIST Develops First Widely Useful Measurement Standard for Breast Cancer MRI

NIST’s initial design for a prototype breast tissue mimic, or "phantom," has been tested on MRI systems from two manufacturers and produced accurate, quantitative images that could be used to evaluate common imaging procedures.




Quantum ThermometerNIST Creates Fundamentally Accurate Quantum Thermometer

Physicists have found a way to calibrate temperature measurements by monitoring a nanomechanical system whose tiny motions are governed by quantum mechanics.




New Tool for Breast Cancer ScreeningNew Tool for Breast Cancer Screening

This month, the first commercial breast phantoms are being shipped to buyers here and abroad. These breast-tissue mimics allow users to test the accuracy of their imaging systems against a NIST-traceable standard.




Organic TransistorsNot So Fast: Overlooked Resistance May Inflate Estimates of Organic-Semiconductor Performance

Organic transistors for flexible electronics don't meet the performance standards of their rigid, predictable silicon counterparts. A new study finds that this disparity can lead to gross overestimates of a property key to performance.




Internet Time ServiceNIST’s Internet Time Service Serves the World

According to detailed data published for the first time, two of the 20 NIST servers that supply time information to Internet-connected devices received requests from more than 300 million unique IP addresses in just one month.




Quantum Spin Squeezing Gets RealQuantum Spin Squeezing Gets Real

PML/JILA researchers are using a type of entanglement to “squeeze” quantum noise out of a sensor, with potential use someday for increasing the precision of atomic clocks, gravity and rotation sensors, and more.




Getting Hyperspectral Imaging Ready for the Rain ForestGetting Hyperspectral Imaging Ready for the Rain Forest

Hyperspectral images allow humans to see what otherwise might be invisible. But utility of the imagers depends critically on their ability to discriminate and measure light at different wavelengths accurately. That’s where NIST comes in.




Vaccine Fridge Field Study 'Opens Doors' to New StandardsVaccine Fridge Field Study ‘Opens Doors’ to New Standards

To create an official standard for how vaccine storage equipment performs, PML researchers are asking a simple question: How often do vaccine providers open their refrigerator doors?




Better Accuracy out of Thin (or Thick) AirBetter Accuracy Out of Thin (or Thick) Air

NIST scientists have devised and improved a prototype instrument the size of a loaf of bread that can substantially reduce uncertainty of length measurements in commerce.




Shedding Light on Dark Matter with SQUIDsShedding Light on Dark Matter with SQUIDs

NIST is once again helping to look for dark matter – this time in Seattle, where an ambitious search effort for hypothetical particles called axions depends critically on a set of ultrasensitive sensors provided by PML.




A promising quantum transducerA Promising Quantum Transducer

NIST/JILA physicists have created an experimental system that converts qubits from microwaves to motion to light. Such systems will be essential components of a quantum network.





High-power laser welding labTransforming Welding with Comprehensive NIST Metrology

A PML/MML collaboration has begun an ambitious program to study the science of high-power laser welding, using a new state-of-the-art facility on NIST’s Boulder, Colo., campus.




James Webb Space TelescopeNIST Performs Critical Measurements for James Webb Space Telescope

The NIST-measured composite titanium and stainless steel parts, which support the skeleton for the telescope’s massive mirror, will be used in the final round of NASA’s vibration tests on the mirror assembly.




Cuvette measurementThinking Outside the Cuvette: For Tricky Dimensional Measurement, PML Scientists Get Creative

PML was tasked with making un ultra-precise dimensional measurement of the insides of a set of tiny glass containers with high aspect ratios. When researchers found they couldn't use the standard measurement method, they devised a workaround.




Quick Test Station for Photonic ThermometersNew ‘Quick Test’ Station May Speed Commercialization of Photonic Thermometers

The Sensor Science team has reached a new milestone with the creation of a system that tests and packages photonic thermometers automatically and in a fraction of the time it previously took.




League of SI SuperheroesSI Superheroes Return with Another Weighty Adventure

The League of SI Superheroes is an animated online series whose characters are modeled on the seven base units of the International System of Units, or SI.





Top Science Stories of 2015NIST Featured in Media’s Top Science Stories of 2015

The year's top stories, as selected by several news media outlets, included NIST's confirmation of "spooky action at a distance" and work using nanoparticles and heat to attack cancer tumors.




HID lamps: Getting Brighter FasterHID Lamps: Getting Brighter Faster

NIST has been issued a patent for a novel method to improve the performance and utility of the sort of high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps used for stadium and shopping-mall lighting, illumination for movie and TV productions, and automobile headlights.




Less jitter, more bitsLess Jitter, More Bits: New Material for Detecting Photons Captures More Quantum Information

Detecting individual particles of light just got a bit more precise — by 74 picoseconds to be exact — thanks to advances in materials by NIST researchers and their colleagues in fabricating superconducting nanowires. 




Portable test solution for laser trackersPML Expertise and Collaborations Lead to Portable Test Solution for Laser Trackers

A collaboration between NIST researchers and a private-sector firm has led to development of a commercial device to fill a critical need in industry: calibration of laser tracking systems.




Squeezed motion in a massive object'Squeezed' Motion in a Massive Object

A NIST team has demonstrated another uniquely quantum phenomenon in a massive object: the state of a tiny metal membrane’s motion can be “squeezed,” and this squeezing can be independently and continuously measured.




Quantum computing toolkit with mixed-atom logic operationsNIST Adds to Quantum Computing Toolkit with Mixed-Atom Logic Operations

Physicists have added to their collection of ingredients for future quantum computers by performing logic operations — basic computing steps — with two atoms of different elements.




Katharine Blodgett GebbieNIST Boulder Lab Building Renamed for Katharine Blodgett Gebbie

The most advanced laboratory building at NIST’s Boulder campus has been renamed after celebrated NIST physics laboratory director Katharine Blodgett Gebbie.




The Once and Future Cryogenic Flow FacilityThe Once and Future Cryogenic Flow Facility

A venerable NIST resource, slated for closure, is being transferred to private industry for operation. The move will ensure that the facility's unique offerings are still available to stakeholders.




Seeing Into Cells More ClearlySeeing Into Cells More Clearly

NIST scientists and collaborators have designed and demonstrated a new and easily tunable, high-contrast scattering agent for biomedical imaging applications.  




Measuring nanoscale features with fractions of lightMeasuring Nanoscale Features with Fractions of Light 

NIST researchers have demonstrated an innovative optical approach that allows subwavelength feature measurements. The technique could someday be used by chip makers to test quality control with high throughput.




Measuring smokestack emissionsMeasuring Smokestack Emissions Accurately

To improve accuracy of CO2 emissions from smokestacks, PML scientists are studying the behavior of calibration instruments that measure air speed, using a wind tunnel and flapping fabric to simulate turbulent gases.




Searching for Better RFPsThe Best and the Brightest: Search for New RFPs

Red fluorescent proteins (RFPs) can be used to track the dynamics of structures as small as single molecules. A team of PML/JILA researchers is searching for new and better RFPs using a microfluidic device that rapidly selects promising candidates.




New cold neutron imaging facilityWorld-Class Neutron Imager Sees First Light

NIST’s new cold neutron imaging facility is part of the lab’s long-term efforts to build the world’s first practical neutron microscope, which will take high-resolution neutron images in a fraction of the current image-collection time.




Spooky action at a distanceNIST Team Proves ‘Spooky Action at a Distance’ is Really Real

By eliminating all other known options, NIST researchers and colleagues showed that correlations between identical photons cannot be caused by the locally controlled, “realistic” universe. This implies a different explanation such as entanglement.




JILA quantum crystal now more valuableIt’s a Beauty: JILA’s Quantum Crystal is Now More Valuable

Physicists at JILA have made their "quantum crystal" of ultracold molecules more valuable than ever by packing about five times more molecules into it. The denser crystal will help scientists unlock the secrets of magnets and other, more exotic materials.




Ballistics control chartNew Ballistics Control Chart for Forensic Imaging

A new downloadable, interactive tool developed by PML will help control the quality of cartridge case images acquired by a national network of crime labs. The work could lead to more "hits" in a database that matches bullets and cartridge cases from different crimes.




Measuring optical power with single-photon detectorsMeasuring Optical Power with Single-Photon Detectors

PML researchers have demonstrated the direct calibration of an optical attenuator at the single-photon level, a capability that could aid research on quantum key distribution, the characterization of light-sensitive biological samples, and more.




CODATA 2014Fundamental Constants: The Latest . . . and the Last?

The most recent (2014) CODATA values for the fundamental physical constants are now displayed on NIST’s website. These latest values will likely be the last official set based on the SI as it is currently defined.




Tracking solar spectrumTracking the Sun's Spectrum 

PML researchers are taking highly accurate measurements of the sun's spectrum from the ground, in an effort to reduce uncertainties about the exact spectral composition of sunshine for improved climate modeling.




New IR facilityA New, World-Class Facility for Infrared Calibrations

NIST is about to open the world's most accurate facility for calibrating infrared (IR) detectors. The new resource is expected to draw customers from the Department of Defense, NASA, instrument companies, and calibration laboratories, among others.




Bent quartz crystal calibrationNIST Calibrates Quartz Crystals for Fusion Device

Sandia Labs' Z machine, a nuclear fusion research device, is the most powerful x-ray generator in the world. This year NIST's PML calibrated a new set of specialized x-ray optics, called bent quartz crystals, for the Z machine.




Observing edge states in a quantum simulationObserving Edge States in a Quantum Simulation

Through the manipulation of carefully controlled quantum-mechanical models, NIST scientists have achieved a major milestone in simulating the dynamics of condensed-matter systems.




Putting the twist on neutronsNIST Puts the Twist on Neutrons – Because It Takes One to Know One

NIST researchers have found a way to add a controlled amount of twist to a beam of neutrons, a development that might expand neutrons' ability to clarify the molecular structure of complex new materials.




Hydrogen storage patentHydrogen Storage Technology Patented

A team of NIST scientists has been issued a patent for a novel alloy formulation that can eliminate many of the drawbacks of other solid-storage materials, permit rapid adsorption and desorption of H2, and operate at desirable temperatures.




GaN NanowiresGaN Nanowires: Knowing Which End Is Up

NIST scientists have measured a critical property of gallium nitride (GaN) – its “crystal polarity” – for the first time. The work could lead to better control over synthesis of the wires and, ultimately, better device performance.




2015 SPS InternsSPS Interns Get the NIST Experience

Under the guidance of PML electrical engineer John Suehle, two physics majors helped to build a prototype for a new solid-state biomolecule sensor this summer.




Breaking record for quantum teleportationNIST Team Breaks Distance Record for Quantum Teleportation

NIST researchers have “teleported” or transferred quantum information carried in light particles over 100 kilometers (km) of optical fiber, four times farther than the previous record.




Molecule-like photon interactionsNIST Physicists Show ‘Molecules’ Made of Light May Be Possible

A team including NIST theoretical physicists has taken another step toward building objects out of photons. The findings hint that weightless particles of light can be joined into a sort of “molecule” with its own peculiar force.




NIST D.I.Y. Watt BalanceVideo: How to Build Your Own NIST "D.I.Y." Watt Balance

This classroom science project teaches students the principles behind the ongoing effort to redefine the kilogram, using LEGO® bricks and some basic electronics.



Shellfish reference materialNew Shellfish Reference Material Will Help Monitor Oceans’ Radioactive Contamination

A new reference material that will help laboratories accurately measure radioactive contamination in seawater is now available from NIST.




Quantum danceGaily Tread the [Quantum] Measure

A NIST physicist and a graduate student in fine arts at the University of California, San Diego, have collaborated on a modern dance piece celebrating the central role of chance in the quantum world.




PET phantomsNot Schrödinger’s Cat: NIST PET Phantoms Bring New Accuracy to Medical Scans

Teaming with a medical equipment company, NIST researchers have demonstrated the first calibration system for positron emission tomography (PET) scanners directly tied to national measurement standards.




Organic solar materialsNIST Shows Organic Solar Industry Something New Under the Sun

In recent findings published in Nature Communications, a NIST team and collaborators show it is possible to test, quickly and directly, a candidate material for building organic solar cells, using off-the-shelf laser technology.




ESR machineThe Incredible Shrinking ESR Machine

Researchers at NIST have come up with a way to shrink a research instrument generally associated with large machines that make bulk measurements of samples down to a literally pinpoint-precision probe.




Four scientists honoredFour PML Scientists Honored

In recent days, four PML scientists have been recognized by scientific organizations for outstanding work: Samuel Benz, Gretchen Campbell, Jay Hendricks, and Glen Solomon.




Leap secondToday, Pause for a Second

On June 30, 2015, at 23:59:59 UTC (just before 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time) the world added its 26th leap second since 1972. Several U.S. government agencies including NIST provided a best practices guide to help people respond.




Ultra-stable JILA microscopy techniqueUltra-stable JILA Microscopy Technique Tracks Tiny Objects for Hours

JILA researchers have designed a microscope instrument so stable that it can accurately measure the 3D movement of individual molecules over many hours—hundreds of times longer than the current limit measured in seconds.




Amplifying the effects of the uncertainty principleMeasuring Up to Heisenberg: Amplifying the Effects of the Uncertainty Principle

NIST researchers have devised and demonstrated a unique measurement system that is able to resolve quantum fluctuations of a tiny aluminum drum that vibrates at shortwave radio frequencies.




Organic spintronicsInfluential Interfaces Lead to Advances in Organic Spintronics

PML researchers are engineering interfaces to control electron injection, to better understand how organic materials could be used for spintronic devices.




Restoration of NIST's million pounds-force deadweight machineMillion-Pound Makeover: Progress Report with Photos

Planned restoration of NIST's 4.45-million newton (one million pounds-force) deadweight machine is now complete. The final task remaining before reassembly is recalibration of the three-story-tall deadweight's approximately 50,000-pound discs.




Diesel pumpNew International Standard for Dynamic Liquid Measuring Systems, Thanks to NIST-led Effort

Dynamic measurements of beer, milk, gasoline, and other non-water liquids are addressed under a new international standard, OIML R 117, created by a multi-national technical committee led by NIST’s Office of Weights and Measures (OWM).




CMB detectorReading the Secrets of Ancient Light

NIST and collaborators have designed a new kind of sensor array for detecting cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation. Recently, the first suite of detectors was installed on a telescope in the Chilean high desert.





Gates Foundation visits vaccine transport labGates Foundation Visits PML Vaccine Transport Lab

The Gates Foundation representative was interested in PML's collaborative research with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to improve temperature monitoring and control of vaccines during storage.




40th Time and Frequency Seminar40th Time and Frequency Seminar Serves Industry, Government, Academe

The seminar covers a broad range of topics in precision time and frequency measurement and applications, including about 25 talks from world-leading scientists and metrologists and several hands-on laboratory sessions.




PML Multimedia ToursPML and the International Year of Light

To celebrate 2015 as the International Year of Light, PML offers multimedia tours — including video — of selected optics and photonics projects now underway.




Shock TubeUnder Construction: Traceable Dynamic Pressure Standard

Better understanding of rapidly changing pressure conditions that can lead to traumatic brain injuries requires new standards – and perhaps new designs – for dynamic pressure sensors. Experiments with PML’s shock tube project are pursuing that goal.




Calibration Facility for Micro-FlowsComing Soon: A Calibration Facility for Micro-Flows

Administering potent medications in tiny doses, often by implantable delivery devices, demands authoritative standards for accurately measuring micro-flows. PML is creating a micro-flow calibration facility for that purpose.




FMCPNew Chip Defect-finding Scheme Attracts Industry Leaders

A new technique, called frequency-modulated charge pumping (FMCP), addresses an industry need: it works even for advanced chip designs with their extremely thin transistor components.




VLOC dimensional measurementsHot Off the Lathe: Dimensional Measurements of First Parts of VLOC Pressure Standard

Dimensional measurements have been made of the first pieces associated with a new photonic pressure standard, the Variable-Length Optical Cavity (VLOC), which may eventually replace the mercury manometer as the national pressure standard.




Strontium clockGetting Better All the Time: JILA Strontium Atomic Clock Sets New Records

The latest modification of a record-setting strontium atomic clock has achieved precision and stability levels that now mean the clock would neither gain nor lose one second in some 15 billion years—roughly the age of the universe




SEMDetecting Effects of 3D Shapes in Nanoscale Chip Features

NIST researchers have determined an important component of uncertainty for near-atomic-scale measurements of the size and shape of miniscule features on chips.




Photonic thermometersPhotonic Thermometers: Out of the Lab, Into a Bucket of Water

A new milestone has been reached for the PML team developing chip-based thermometers that measure temperature with light. The researchers can now simultaneously connect multiple optical fibers to a chip stably, cheaply, and rapidly.




Steam burnsWhy Firefighters Get Steam Burns: Exploratory Study Underway

NIST researchers are investigating a potential mechanism by which firefighters might get steam burns, in which water vapor could quickly penetrate their protective suits and condense on their skin.




FCMNNanoelectronics Conference Focuses on Future of Semiconductor Manufacturing

The characterization technology needed for nanoelectronic materials and device research, development, and manufacturing was discussed at the 2015 International Conference on Frontiers of Characterization and Metrology for Nanoelectronics (FCMN).




Lab on a ChipNIST Technique Can Measure Volumes of Key 'Lab on a Chip' Components

The new approach could meet an important need in the microfluidics industry, which creates devices useful in fields from medical testing to toxin detection.




Dimensional metrology workshop‘Standing Room Only’ for PML’s Hands-On Dimensional Metrology Workshop

PML’s Dimensional Metrology Group hosted a three-day training event for 13 industry and government attendees. The class was given in response to an industry-identified need.




Quantum information speed limitNIST Tightens the Bounds on the Quantum Information 'Speed Limit'

A new mathematical proof by PML physicists indicates that quantum processors will work more slowly than some research has suggested.




Shape-shifting nanoprobesPrecocious GEM: Shape-Shifting Sensor Can Report Conditions from Deep in the Body

Scientists at NIST and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have devised and demonstrated a tiny new shape-shifting probe that is capable of sensitive, high-resolution remote biological sensing not possible with current technology.





Using foam to detect neutronsNovel Neutron Detector Makes Scintillating Debut

A team of researchers has successfully demonstrated a new design concept for a neutron detector that does not rely – as nearly all current models do – on a dwindling worldwide supply of a very rare gas.




Where'd that plutonium come from?Getting a Critical Edge on Plutonium Identification

NIST scientists and colleagues have created a new kind of sensor that can be used to investigate the telltale isotopic composition of plutonium samples, a critical measurement for nuclear non-proliferation efforts and related forensics.




Modeling Injured BrainsNIST’s MRI Measurement Tools to Help Diagnose Veterans’ Traumatic Brain Injuries

A new study of traumatic brain injuries using diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will get a quality control boost from NIST, which has been working in collaboration with other organizations for nearly a decade to improve quantitative measures for MRI.



Timing Is Everything for Internet of ThingsLack of Effective Timing Signals Could Hamper ‘Internet of Things’ Development

Our fast-approaching future of driverless cars and “smart” electrical grids could be stalled by our lack of effective methods to marry computers and networks with timing systems, says a new report released by NIST.




Right Angle for X RaysNIST Gets New Angle on X-Ray Measurements

Researchers have developed a new method to reduce uncertainty in X-ray wavelength measurement with implications for the fields of criminal justice, cosmology, and computer manufacturing.




Forensics PanelPML Helps Lead Standardization for Firearm and Toolmark Examinations

Two PML researchers have been appointed to the Organization of Scientific Area Committees’ (OSAC) Subcommittee on Firearms and Toolmarks, part of an initiative by NIST and the Department of Justice to strengthen forensic science in the United States.




BossNIST's Michael Boss to Receive Tech Transfer Award for MRI Calibration Standard

The device developed by Boss for calibrating MRI scanners is designed to standardize imaging of the diffusion of water molecules, a technique that can be useful in diagnosing traumatic brain injury (TBI), neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer.




Shaker Table: Accelerometer Calibration ServiceNew Accelerometer Calibration Service to Start Soon

This state-of-the-art calibration service for will be sensitive enough to detect motion over distances as small as a few nanometers (the size scale of a single molecule) and frequencies up to 50,000 cycles per second (50 kHz).




A new map for solid-state lightingFollowing a New MAP for Solid-State Lighting

NIST has now begun offering customers the second generation of its highly successful SSL Measurement Assurance Program (MAP-2), including a new set of lamp artifacts, new detailed measurement protocols, and revised operations.




Laser tracker testingPML to Help Automated Precision Incorporated Improve Laser Tracker Measurement Testing

In response to industrial needs, API and NIST will jointly research and develop new performance tests to help the automotive and aerospace industries understand and improve their industrial measurements.




Electronic brachytherapyComputing for Better Radiation Therapy

Doctors devising a plan of attack on a tumor may one day gain another tactical advantage thanks to a series of sophisticated calculations proposed by PML’s Dosimetry group.




New plug and pay standardsNIST Group Drafts Plug-and-Pay Standards

Plug-in electric vehicles are prompting increased demand for the electrical equivalent of the corner gas station. Now a standard produced by NIST’s U.S. National Work Group on Electric Vehicle Refueling and Submetering appears to be on its way to adoption.




Radioactive DatingHidden Uncertainties Uncovered in Nuclear Forensic Measurement

A little detective work by nuclear physicists has uncovered hidden uncertainties in a popular method for precisely measuring radioactive nuclides, often used to make reference materials for forensic analyses such as radioactive dating.




Unit pricingNew Best Practices Guide Shows Unit Pricing Is a Great Deal

In an effort to help shoppers everywhere get the best value for their money, researchers at NIST have produced a best practices guide for the layout and design of unit price labels.




Portable Vacuum StandardNew Portable Vacuum Standard

A novel Portable Vacuum Standard (PVS) has been added to the roster of NIST’s Standard Reference Instruments (SRI). It is now available for purchase as part of NIST’s ongoing commitment to disseminate measurement standards.




Million-pound makeoverMillion-Pound Makeover: Restoration Begins on NIST's 50-year-old Deadweight Machine

For the first time in half a century, NIST’s 4.45-million newton (equivalent to one million pounds-force) deadweight machine – the largest in the world – is being disassembled for cleaning, restoration, and recalibration. The first stage of the process, dismantling the top half of the three-story stack of weights, is now complete.



Hybrid spin valveHybrid Memory Device for Superconducting Computing

A team of NIST scientists has devised and demonstrated a novel nanoscale memory technology for superconducting computing that could hasten the advent of an urgently awaited, low-energy alternative to power-hungry conventional data centers and supercomputers.



2D contactBuilding a Better 2D Material with Silver

Two-dimensional (2D) materials such as molybdenum-disulfide (MoS2) are attracting much attention for future electronic and photonic applications ranging from high-performance computing to flexible and pervasive sensors and optoelectronics. Now PML scientists have discovered a better metal contact that improves two-dimensional transistor performance.



Weighing GasWeighing Gas with Sound and Microwaves

NIST scientists have developed a novel method to rapidly and accurately calibrate gas flow meters, such as those used to measure natural gas flowing in pipelines, by applying a fundamental physical principle.




PET-MR phantomPrototype for First Traceable PET-MR Phantom

As cancer diagnostic tools, the new PET-MR imagers have shown promise, but thoroughly assessing their clinical performance requires calibrating the machines in a way that is traceable to a national standard.




Open SourceOpen-Source Software for Quantum Information

NIST has partnered with the private sector to develop the next-generation open-source control software for quantum information systems.




AFM probeNIST Sensor Could Improve One of Nano Research’s Most Useful Microscopes

Spotting molecule-sized features—common in computer circuits and nanoscale devices—may become both easier and more accurate with a new sensor developed at NIST.




Photonic thermometersLighting the Path to Smaller, Tougher Thermometers

Two prototypes for tiny chip-based thermometers are illuminating light’s potential to revolutionize the way temperature is gauged.




Time standard for NASDAQNIST-based Time Standard For NASDAQ

NASDAQ has announced the launch of a precision time-stamping service for tens of billions of dollars of electronic financial transactions each day based on remote provision of NIST official U.S. time.




Neutron CT scanNeutron Scan Helps Solve 787 Battery Fire Puzzle

NIST imaging with a neutron CT scan was used in a recent investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.





Ultrasonic thermometersUltrasonic Thermometers for Medical Dosimetry

PML researchers are exploring whether ultrasound can be used to improve quality assurance tests for radiotherapy beams.





SEM for STEMPML Outreach Promotes STEM Excitement

PML is helping to bring teachers, students, and manufacturers together to give students access to tabletop scanning electron microscopes.




iNEMI board of directors visit NISTiNEMI Board of Directors Visits NIST

NIST hosted the Board of Directors of the International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (iNEMI) this week for an overview of NIST's support of the electronics industry.




neutron image of rotor gaugeProtecting Vacuum Gauges: Patent Pending

PML researchers have applied for a provisional patent on a device to protect expensive “spinning-rotor” high-vacuum gauges – used as transfer standards and reference standards by calibration labs – that are vulnerable to damage during transport.




X-ray image of forkliftBetter Cargo Inspection Standards at Border Crossings

A joint NIST-DHS project recently completed a series of image quality measurements of a high-energy x-ray vehicle-screening system at a new port-of-entry near El Paso, TX.




silicate bondingThin, Strong Bond for Vacuum Seal

An ultra-stable, ultra-thin bonding technology has been adapted by PML researchers for use as a super-strong vacuum seal that is less than 100 nanometers thick.




binary digitsLow Error-Rate Detector System for Telecommunications

NIST scientists have devised an experimental photon-detection system for communications with error rates far below even the most ideal conventional designs.




laser cutting metalNIST Fires Up Extended Calibration Service for Laser Welding and More

PML has launched a new multi-kilowatt laser power measurement service capability for high-power lasers of the sort used in cutting and welding metals, or defusing unexploded land mines.




nanowire arrayUniform Nanowire Arrays for Science and Manufacturing

Researchers reach a new milestone in the quest to make defect-free nanowires with diameters in the range of 100 nm -- at controlled size and location -- for applications including printable transistors for flexible electronics and high-efficiency light-emitting diodes.




nanoscale junctionComputing with Single Atoms

The final frontier of microchip miniaturization is a transistor on the scale of a single atom. PML has iniitated a new research program to create just such a device in manufacturable, solid-state form by harnessing two capabilities unique to NIST.




Earth seen from spaceEarth Science: Seeing the Surface Clearly

NASA is funding NIST to use its Traveling SIRCUS laser-based sensor calibration facility to calibrate and characterize the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) sensor on the first satellite in the Joint Polar Satellite System. JPSS will constitute the next generation of polar-orbiting weather satellites, to be developed by NASA and operated by NOAA. The first is expected to launch in early 2017.



chip-scale magnetometerTiny Magnetic Sensor Attracts Interest

Ultra-sensitive magnetic sensor technology pioneered at PML may soon be commercialized for a host of applications from detection of unexploded bombs and underground pipes to geophysical surveying and perhaps even imaging of the brain and heart.




ocean waveGauging the Hue of the Sea

The color of scattered light from sunlit seawater contains important information about ocean health and concentration of substances such as chlorophyll. But taking color measurements from ships has been difficult because of interference from other sources of light -- for example, skylight reflected off the ocean's surface.

Now PML scientists have designed and produced a sand-blasted blue tile to serve as an ocean-like reflectance sample.



NISTAR instrumentTaking the Wraps off NISTAR

The NIST Advanced Radiometer (NISTAR), mothballed for more than a decade, is slated to make its space debut as part of the Deep Space Climate Observatory mission.




nanoscale structuresNIST-Intel Partnership Workshop

At the seventh in a series of workshops, researchers shared state-of-the-art samples for evaluation by about 20 NIST characterization techniques that do not exist anywhere else in the world.




QuICSUMD and NIST Announce the Creation of the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science (QuICS)

Scientists at the new center will conduct basic research to understand how quantum systems can be effectively used to store, transport, and process information.




body armorBetter Body Armor Standards for US Army

PML scientists are improving the standardization of the bullet-stopping chest and back plates worn by US soldiers in battle.





Pressure sensorWorld’s First Photonic Pressure Sensor Outshines Traditional Mercury Standard

Within weeks of seeing “first light,” a novel pressure-sensing device has surpassed the performance of the best mercury-based techniques in resolution, speed, and range at a fraction of the size. The new instrument, called a fixed-length optical cavity (FLOC), works by detecting subtle changes in the wavelength of light passing through a cavity filled with nitrogen gas.



CombsNIST 'Combs' the Atmosphere to Measure Greenhouse Gases

In a recent demonstration, a pair of laser frequency combs was used to measure the simultaneous signatures of several greenhouse gases along a 2-kilometer path.




Laser calibration serviceNIST Launches New Calibration Service for High-Power Lasers

The new service is offered for power levels up to 10 kilowatts(kW). These high-power lasers are used by manufacturers for applications such as cutting and welding metals, as well as by the military for more specialized applications like defusing unexploded land mines.



Big GTrouble with a Capital 'G'

NIST has taken part in a new push to address a persistent and growing problem in physics: the value of G, the Newtonian constant of gravitation. The more experiments researchers conduct to pin G down, the more their results diverge.




close-up of transition edge sensorImproving on X-ray Vision

Advanced spectrometers pioneered at NIST may speed the arrival of long-awaited materials and devices including advanced high-temperature superconductors and high-efficiency photovoltaic cells.




design for diffusion phantomNew Phantoms for Better Brain Imaging Image-calibration technology designed and developed by NIST scientists has been adopted for use in multi-site clinical trials in the United States and Europe to study the effects of traumatic brain injury.





James Olthoff Named Director of NIST’s Physical Measurement Laboratory

James Olthoff, a 27-year veteran of NIST, has been named director of PML.




LadarNIST Laser Comb System Maps 3D Surfaces Remotely for Manufacturing, Forensics

Researchers at NIST have demonstrated a laser-based imaging system that creates high-definition 3D maps of surfaces from as far away as 10.5 meters. The method may be useful in diverse fields, including precision machining and assembly, as well as in forensics.



Metric superherosIntroducing the League of SI Superheroes: The New Champions of Metric 

To celebrate Metric Week (Oct. 5-11), NIST would like to introduce you to the League of SI Superheroes. The League of SI Superheroes use their incredible powers of measurement to perform amazing feats of science and engineering.




rings from spontaneous parametric down-conversionGenerating Photons by the Numbers

A new system based on photon pair creation is designed to produce specific numbers of photons on demand, with potentially significant benefits for research, environmental monitoring, astronomy, and other applications.




Ron ToshCalibrating Cancer Radiotherapy Beams Using Light and Sound

More and more therapy clinics are using radiation beams with non-standard, complex dose profiles, making it tricky to use traditional calibration tactics. PML scientists demonstrate two potentially better methods that measure subtle changes in temperature using ultrasound or optical light.



Entangled Photon TripletsThree's a Charm: NIST Detectors Reveal Entangled Photon Triplets

Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada have directly entangled three photons in the most technologically useful state for the first time, thanks in part to superfast, super-efficient single-photon detectors developed by NIST.




New standard for microsensor technologyNIST Helps Develop New Standard for Microsensor Technology

NIST has contributed to the development of a new standard for defining the performance of micromechanical sensors—a field that is expected to expand rapidly in coming decades as these versatile sensors increasingly become part of electronic networks.




PoloniumPolonium's Most Stable Isotope Gets Revised Half-Life Measurement

Scientists at NIST have determined that polonium-209, the longest-lived isotope of this radioactive heavy element, has a half-life about 25 percent longer than the previously determined value, which had been in use for decades.




Sample under testScientists Shed Light on Organic Photovoltaic Characteristics

SDMD scientists have developed a method that allows the prediction of the current density-voltage curve of a photovoltaic device.




Ravi AttotaOptical Microscope Technique Confirmed as Valid Nano-Measurement Tool

Recent experiments have confirmed that a technique developed several years ago at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) can enable optical microscopes to measure the three-dimensional (3-D) shape of objects at nanometer-scale resolution—far below the normal resolution limit for optical microscopy.




Illustration of symmetry in the magnetic properties of strontium atomsJILA Team Finds First Direct Evidence of 'Spin Symmetry' in Atoms

The discovery, described in Science Express, was made possible by the ultra-stable laser used to measure properties of the world's most precise and stable atomic clock.




the sun at 304 angstromsSeeing the Sun's EUV Output in a Whole New Light

Precision calibrations in the extreme ultraviolet range may hasten the advent of a new generation of degradation-free spectrometers for use on satellites that monitor solar radiation.




Smokestack SimulatorA Case of the Flue: Major Construction Complete for PML's Scale-Model Smokestack

The newly built research facility, which houses a 50-meter-long horizontal smokestack, will let researchers study the flow characteristics of flue gases and improve the accuracy with which greenhouse gas emissions are monitored.




 Hydrogen bathNIST Therapy for Ultraviolet Laser Beams: Hydrogen-treated Fibers

To make a better optical fiber for transmitting laser beams, the first idea that comes to mind is probably not a nice long hydrogen bath. Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have put this hydrogen “cure” to practical use, making optical fibers that transmit stable, high-power ultraviolet laser light for hundreds of hours.




Andrew WilsonNIST Ion Duet Offers Tunable Module for Quantum Simulator

Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have demonstrated a pas de deux of atomic ions that combines the fine choreography of dance with precise individual control.




Dynamic metrologyIt’s a Dynamic World, Now NIST Can Help You Measure Its Changes

Crash-test dummies, yarn-spinning machines and steel girders in bridges. What do they have in common? Look inside them all and you find transducers, devices that measure the forces that push, pull, weigh upon and slam into them. Until recently, it was difficult to calibrate them in all but the simplest sense.



PG Crime LabIt’s a Match: NIST and Prince George’s County Crime Lab Team Up on Ballistics Research

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology are working to improve ballistics matching methods with assistance from the Prince George's County, Maryland, Police Department Crime Laboratory. Their work together will contribute to a collection of topographic data from thousands of fired bullets and cartridge cases.



Ultra-enriched siliconBeyond Six Nines: Ultra-enriched Silicon Paves the Road to Quantum Computing

NIST researchers have created what may be the most highly enriched silicon currently being produced: more than 99.9999% pure silicon-28 (28Si). Many quantum computing schemes require isotopically pure silicon, for example to act as a substrate in which qubits – the quantum bits that store information – are embedded.



Physicists Scott Diddams and Scott Papp'Comb on a Chip' Powers New NIST/Caltech Atomic Clock Design

Researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have demonstrated a new design for an atomic clock that is based on a chip-scale frequency comb, or a microcomb.




Jodie PopeFill ‘er Up: NIST Develops Prototype Meter Test for Hydrogen Refueling Stations

To support the fair sale of gaseous hydrogen as a vehicle fuel, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a prototype field test standard to test the accuracy of hydrogen fuel dispensers.




Airport scannerBackscatter Body Scan Redux

Two years ago, NIST researchers reported an assessment of the radiation levels produced by a backscatter x-ray system used by TSA to screen airline passengers. Now a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) team is conducting independent measurements of a backscatter machine on NIST’s Gaithersburg campus.



Skin tonesSeeing Your True Colors: Standards for Hyperspectral Imaging

A technology called hyperspectral imaging offers doctors a noninvasive, painless way to discriminate between healthy and diseased tissue and reveal how well damaged tissue is healing over a wide area. The catch? A lack of calibration standards is impeding its use.




Illustration of bias voltage controlled magnetoresistance enabled in an organic light-emitting diode structure due to the charge trapping induced by the insertion of SAM.Manipulating Magnetic Field Effects in Organic Semiconductors

Researchers have found a way to change the magnetoresistance of a thin (≈ 100 nm) organic semiconducting material by pairing it with a self-assembled monolayer to alter its characteristics.




Lab apparatus

NIST Technique Could Make Sub-wavelength Images at Radio Frequencies

Imaging and mapping of electric fields at radio frequencies (RF)* currently requires the use of metallic structures such as dipoles, probes and reference antennas. To make such measurements efficiently, the size of these structures needs to be on the order of the wavelength of the RF fields to be mapped. This poses practical limitations on the smallest features that can be measured.



close-up of SPADNew SPAD Control System -- High Efficiency, Low Noise

An exquisitely sensitive, semiconductor-based, single-photon detection system has the highest reported detection efficiency of any device of its type and is capable of detecting hundreds of millions of photons per second with very low noise.





micrograph of AFM tipAFM Systems Take a Tip from Nanowires

In response to requests from the semiconductor industry, scientists found that atomic force microscope probe tips made from its near-perfect gallium nitride nanowires are superior in many respects to standard silicon or platinum tips.




diagram of molybdenum disulfideNanoelectronics: First Measurement of Moly's Thermal Conductivity

Scientists have succeeded in measuring a previously unknown but essential property − thermal conductivity −of an ultra-thin material that is expected to play a major role in the fast-emerging field of nanoelectronics.




DNA strandsJILA Study Finds Crowding Has Big Effects on Biomolecules

Relatively little is known about the influence of crowding at the cellular level. A new study shows that it has dramatic effects on individual biomolecules, such as a 35-fold increase in the folding rate of ribonucleic acid.




diagram of chipNIST Chip Produces and Detects Specialized Gas for Biomedical Analysis

A chip-scale microfluidic device that both produces and detects a specialized gas used in biomedical analysis and medical imaging has been built and demonstrated.




 image depicting scintillationDetecting Neutrons . . . With Light

A suite of precision tests show that excimer scintillation is a highly promising candidate to fill the growing worldwide need for neutron detectors.




photo of microfabricationA 'Gold Standard' for Graphene Fabrication

A new method may herald a new generation of standards for electrical resistance. It offers substantial performance enhancement over most existing devices.




photo of new watt balanceUnderstanding a New Way to Weigh in the Revised SI

Jon Pratt, whose group is assembling and testing NIST's new watt balance, explains how the Planck constant is related to mass.





George OrjiPML Leadership Prominent Throughout Newly Released ITRS
Several PML experts, along with others at NIST, served in key roles that helped shape the new edition of the ITRS.





Jason Coder and John LadburyCable Connections v. Cell Phones

A recently completed suite of measurements found that, in some situations, 4G cell phone signals can interfere with telecommunications connections.

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