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NIST Awards $2.7 Million to 18 U.S. Small Business Research Projects

For Immediate Release: August 10, 2011

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Contact: Mark Esser
301-975-8735

Gaithersburg, Md. - The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has announced nearly $2.7 million in Phase 1 and Phase 2 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards to 18 U.S. small businesses.

The awards provide funding to small businesses to help develop technologies that could lead to commercial and public benefit. Winning projects include a research platform for developing microscopic robots less than a millimeter in size, an environmental chamber for testing the weathering of materials, and an improved system for broadcasting time-of-day signals.

NIST's SBIR program is a competitive funding opportunity that provides contracts to small businesses for federal research and development. The program stimulates technological innovation in the private sector, strengthens the role of small business in meeting federal research and development needs, increases private sector commercialization of federal research and development, and fosters technological innovation at minority and disadvantaged firms.

SBIR awards are funded through a three-phase process. In Phase 1, small businesses can receive up to $90,000 to establish the scientific or technical merit, or feasibility of ideas, that support the commercial potential of their research. Every year, NIST issues a "call for proposals" under Phase 1 of the SBIR program to address specific problems related to the agency's mission. Successful completion of Phase 1 enables awardees to compete for Phase 2 funding of up to $300,000 that enables them to continue their research and development efforts. Phase 1 awardees have six months to complete their work; Phase 2 awardees have up to two years. Phase 3 involves commercial applications of the newly developed technologies, with funding from outside of the SBIR program.

NIST solicits proposals for the SBIR program that fall within its mission and that, whenever possible, allow collaboration between NIST scientists and SBIR awardees. The SBIR program was established by Congress in 1982 under the Small Business Innovation Development Act.

Awards announced include:

Phase 1 Awards

Manufacturing

Sigma-K Corporation (Durham, N.C.) - $90,000
Production Methods and Software for NIST Calibration Phantoms

Sigma-K will develop a manufacturing technique and accompanying software that will commercialize a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) "phantom," an object that will help calibrate MRI scanners. The developed software will analyze the resulting MRI data. The goal of the project is to produce a phantom that provides consistent and accurate results over an intended lifecycle of five years.

RoadNarrows LLC (Loveland, Colo.) - $90,000
An Extensible 6DOF Vision Framework for Accurate Location and Pose Estimation in a Scene Graph Context

RoadNarrows will develop a novel architecture to be implemented in a machine vision system with applications in autonomous robotics. With the ability to move in three rotational directions and three translational (back and forth) directions, the system will generate high-resolution, real-time spatial data that will be incorporated into an innovative framework for creating data structures that can approximate a 3-D environment.

AMT Nano (Lexington, Ky.) - $90,000
A Versatile Microbot Fabrication Platform

AMT Nano will develop a versatile platform for manufacturing robots with dimensions of less than a millimeter. Relying upon a low-cost, high-throughput and highly precise micromolding process, the platform will enable the fabrication of microrobots with continuous contours and curvatures; varying thicknesses; and desired optical, electrical, and magnetic properties that would prove difficult for conventional techniques.

BIMCON Inc. (W. Bloomfield, Mich.) - $89,979
An Integrated Decision Support Framework for Sustainability CAE

BIMCON Inc. will research the feasibility of an integrated decision support framework for evaluating the sustainability of products as they are being designed. This framework, called Sustainability CAE (SCAE), will take advantage of the latest advancements in open standards and software capabilities, capture lifecycle-wide information relevant to sustainability and its assessment, and organize and integrate it in a usable form with the analysis phases.

Nanotechnology

Nanometrology International, Inc. (Allen, Texas) - $90,000
3-D Tip Characterization and Surface Reconstruction

Nanometrology International, Inc. (NMI) will demonstrate the feasibility of three-dimensional (3-D) characterization of nanometer-scale objects using scanning probe microscopy (SPM) with a measurement uncertainty of less than 0.7 nanometers. To do this, NMI will propose a novel method of 3-D tip characterization and use an innovative surface reconstruction algorithm recently introduced by NIST and the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Information Technology

G2, Inc. (Annapolis Junction, Md.) - $90,000
Enhanced Security Content Automation Protocol Editor

G2 will develop an intuitive, interactive utility for creating and editing digital content using the Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP), a set of specifications for automating computer security operations. The utility aims to provide a user-friendly operating environment for creating and editing SCAP applications.

Aries Design Automation, LLC (Chicago, Ill.) - $90,000
Using Automated Abstractions to Classify System States for Software Health Monitoring

Aries Design Automation will determine if methods that have been successful in other kinds of software analysis can be used to monitor information system health. They will apply ideas from run-time verification and software testing to extract information that a machine learning algorithm may use to classify states by their probable proximity to system failure.

DeVivo AST, Inc. (Huntsville, Ala.) - $88,789
An Automated Test Bed for Assessing System-of-System (SoS) Assurance

As System-of-Systems (SoS) become more complex, their interactions become difficult to identify and control. Unmanned Autonomous Systems are an important example of an SoS that is difficult to assure. Drawing upon prior work on multi-criteria decision making, DeVivo AST has developed TOP Score, a software tool that facilitates the modeling and analysis of complex Unmanned Autonomous Systems.

Materials Science

Measurement Analysis Corporation (Torrance, Calif.) - $88,834
Environmental Chambers for an Integrating Sphere-Based Weathering Device

Using a new concept for humidity control based on a proprietary saturated air source, Measurement Analysis Corporation will develop a design for an environmental chamber for use with NIST's SPHERE ultraviolet (UV) radiation source for studies on how UV radiation can weather or otherwise degrade materials.

Sepax Technologies, Inc. (Newark, Del.) - $89,999
Anion Exchange Resins for Chirality-Based Separation of Single-Wall Carbon Nanotubes

All known methods for producing single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) generate mixtures of tubes with spirals at different angles, or "chiralities." Producing a batch of carbon nanotubes with the same chirality is critical for taking full advantage of their superb mechanical, thermal, optical and electronic properties in products. Sepax will apply its technology to develop methods of producing and separating SWCNTs of desired chirality in a highly effective and efficient fashion.

Optical Physics Company (Calabasas, Calif.) - $89,951
Interferometric Angle Measurement

Optical Physics Company will seek to implement an interferometric angle sensor to determine the relative angle between two diffracting crystals. The expected accuracy will be better than 0.1 arc seconds across a range of 0.25 degrees. Phase 1 work will build and test a prototype interferometer, which will confirm the design and prepare for fabrication of a deliverable unit in Phase 2.

Agiltron Inc. (Woburn, Mass.) – $89,990.85
Optical Instrumentation for MEMS Oscillatory Parallel-Plate Rheometer

Leveraging their techniques for optically measuring motion in microelectromechanical (MEMS) devices, Agiltron will use electro-optical sensors to measure displacements and gaps in the NIST micro-rheometer, a potentially valuable flow-measurement tool for biotechnologists studying minute quantities of complex materials that must function in confined spaces.

Chemistry/Mathematics/Physics

Signal Processing, Inc. (Rockville, Md.) - $90,000
High-Performance Signal Processing Tools with Fluctuation-Enhanced Sensing

Signal Processing will develop a high-performance library of signal processing tools that incorporate a newly developed technique known as fluctuation enhanced sensing (FES) to enhance the performance of a novel microsensor design developed at NIST.

Phase 2 Awards

Information Technology

Xtendwave (Dallas, Texas) – $300,000
A Novel Enhanced-Performance Low-Cost Receiver and a Modified Modulation Scheme for WWVB

Xtendwave will complete the development of an improved system for broadcasting from NIST radio station WWVB, based in Fort Collins, Colo., that is used by millions of people throughout North America to synchronize consumer electronic products such as wall clocks, clock radios and wristwatches. The project aims to design a new signal-modulation scheme and protocol, develop a new time-code generator, and create and demonstrate a receiver prototype that can validate expected improvements in the performance and low-cost manufacturability.

Ad Harmony (Staten Island, N.Y.) - $300,000
Distributed MBARK-Based Mobile Face Recognition

Ad Harmony will develop a prototype of a face recognition application in a cloud computing environment utilizing the Multimodal Biometric Application Resource Kit (MBARK) – public domain source code that can be leveraged to develop the next-generation of biometric and personal identity verification applications. The tool will have a client element that will run on a mobile device such as a laptop, and a server element that will run on a higher-performance computing cluster.

Microelectronics Manufacturing

Celadon Systems, Inc. (Apple Valley, Minn.) - $300,000
Massively Parallel High-Temperature Probe System for Wafer-Level Reliability Testing

Traditional reliability assessment methods are proving less effective as device sizes shrink, and the cost of assessing these device innovations is becoming a major barrier to their commercialization. The NIST Phase 1 project concluded that a tightly integrated system offers the potential for a tenfold reduction in test costs. However, a tightly integrated system introduces risks and unknown factors due to the thermal, mechanical and electrical interaction of system components. In its Phase 2 effort, Celadon Systems will explore interactions among feasible alternatives identified in Phase 1 and develop the best possible combination into an integrated system.

Optics and Optical Technology

Radiation Monitoring Devices, Inc. (Watertown, Mass.) - $299,995
High-Speed and High-Sensitivity Quadrant Photodetector

Radiation Monitoring Devices will develop a turnkey optical detector module for use in characterizing properties of microcantilevers used in scanning probe microscopes and sensing applications.

Manufacturing Systems Integration

BIMCON Inc. (W. Bloomfield, Mich.) - $299,620
Decision Support Tools for Sustainable Manufacturing

Bimcon Inc. will work to develop an integrated decision support solution that transforms the current time-consuming and reactive (post-design) sustainability assessment of a product into a proactive approach available in the early design phases. Its Phase 2 work focuses on building the systems necessary for a fully functional prototype that will be deployed and tested by the company's industry collaborators.

As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, NIST promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.