In This Issue...
NIST Awards Contract to MITRE to Support Cybersecurity Center of Excellence
Initial Tasks under IDIQ Contract Total $29 Million to Operate Newly Established Federally Funded Research and Development Center
The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has awarded a contract to operate its first Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC), which will support the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE). The Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract was awarded to The MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit organization that operates six other FFRDCs. It includes three initial tasks totaling about $29 million. This FFRDC is the first solely dedicated to enhancing the security of the nation's information systems.
The award marks a new phase for the NCCoE, which was established in partnership with the state of Maryland and Montgomery County, Md., in February 2012. The center helps businesses secure their data and digital infrastructure by bringing together experts from industry, government and academia to provide real-world cybersecurity solutions based on commercially available technologies.
“As the principal champion of the digital economy in the federal government, the Commerce Department is committed to defending our nation’s digital infrastructure from cyberattacks and helping American companies strengthen cybersecurity,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “The NIST award announced today will enable the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence to expand and accelerate its public-private collaborations through the Department’s first Federally Funded Research and Development Center focused on boosting the security of U.S. information systems.”
The contract to operate the FFRDC is a single award IDIQ contract with a maximum amount of $5 billion over 25 years, beginning with a base performance period of five years, followed by four option periods of five years each.
The center engages public and private partners through long- and short-term collaboration efforts and has been working with members of industry sectors such as health care and energy to identify common concerns and develop model cybersecurity examples and practice guides. It also works with small groups of vendors to develop “building blocks,” which address technical cybersecurity challenges that are common across multiple industry sectors.
In 2013, NIST announced it would establish an FFRDC to support the NCCoE’s goals and ensure a productive collaboration environment for the center’s partners. FFRDCs operate in the public interest and are required to be free from organizational conflicts of interest as well as bias toward any particular company, technology or product—key attributes given the NCCoE's collaborative nature. They also provide a highly efficient way to leverage and rapidly assemble physical resources and scientific and engineering talent, both public and private.
Federal staff will provide overall management of the NCCoE, and MITRE will operate the FFRDC to support the center’s mission through three major task areas: research, development, engineering and technical support; operations management; and facilities management.
The first three task orders under the contract will allow the NCCoE to expand its efforts in developing use cases and building blocks and provide operations management and facilities planning.
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. To learn more about NIST, visit www.nist.gov. To learn more about the NCCoE, visit http://nccoe.nist.gov.
Media Contact: Jennifer Huergo, firstname.lastname@example.org, 301-975-6343
World’s Smallest Reference Material is Big Plus for Nanotechnology
If it's true that good things come in small packages, then the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) can now make anyone working with nanoparticles very happy. NIST recently issued Reference Material (RM) 8027, the smallest known reference material ever created for validating measurements of these man-made, ultrafine particles between 1 and 100 nanometers (billionths of a meter) in size.
RM 8027 consists of five hermetically sealed ampoules containing one milliliter of silicon nanoparticles—all certified to be close to 2 nanometers in diameter—suspended in toluene. To yield the appropriate sizes for the new RM, the nanocrystals are etched from a silicon wafer, separated using ultrasound and then stabilized within an organic shell. Particle size and chemical composition are determined by dynamic light scattering, analytical centrifugation, electron microscopy and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), a powerful technique that can measure elements at concentrations as low as several parts per billion.
"For anyone working with nanomaterials at dimensions 5 nanometers or less, our well-characterized nanoparticles can ensure confidence that their measurements are accurate," says NIST research chemist Vytas Reipa, leader of the team that developed and qualified RM 8027.
Silicon nanoparticles such as those in RM 8027 are being studied as alternative semiconductor materials for next-generation photovoltaic solar cells and solid-state lighting, and as a replacement for carbon in the cathodes of lithium batteries. Another potential application comes from the fact that silicon crystals at dimensions of 5 nanometers or less fluoresce under ultraviolet light. Because of this property, silicon nanoparticles may one day serve as easily detectable "tags" for tracking nanosized substances in biological, environmental or other dynamic systems.
RM 8027 maybe ordered from the NIST Standard Reference Materials Program by phone, (301) 975-2200; by fax, (301) 948-3730; or online at http://www.nist.gov/srm.
Media Contact: Michael E. Newman, email@example.com, 301-975-3025
NIST Scientists Improve Microscopic Batteries with Homebuilt Imaging Analysis
In a rare case of having their cake and eating it too, scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and other institutions have developed* a toolset that allows them to explore the complex interior of tiny, multi-layered batteries they devised. It provides insight into the batteries’ performance without destroying them—resulting in both a useful probe for scientists and a potential power source for micromachines.
The microscopic lithium-ion batteries are created by taking a silicon wire a few micrometers long and covering it in successive layers of different materials. Instead of a cake, however, each finished battery looks more like a tiny tree.
The analogy becomes obvious when you see the batteries attached by their roots to silicon wafers and clustered together by the million into “nanoforests,” as the team dubs them.
But it’s the cake-like layers that enable the batteries to store and discharge electricity, and even be recharged. These talents could make them valuable for powering autonomous MEMS – microelectromechanical machines – which have potentially revolutionary applications in many fields.
With so many layers that can vary in thickness, morphology and other parameters, it’s crucial to know the best way to build each layer to enhance the battery’s performance, as the team found in previous research.** But conventional transmission electron microscopy (TEM) couldn’t provide all the details needed, so the team created a new technique that involved multimode scanning TEM (STEM) imaging. With STEM, electrons illuminate the battery, which scatters them at a wide range of angles. To see as much detail as possible, the team decided to use a set of electron detectors to collect electrons in a wide range of scattering angles, an arrangement that gave them plenty of structural information to assemble a clear picture of the battery’s interior, down to the nanoscale level.
The promising toolset of electron microscopy techniques helped the researchers to home in on better ways to build the tiny batteries. “We had a lot of choices in what materials to deposit and in what thicknesses, and a lot of theories about what to do,” team member Vladimir Oleshko says. “But now, as a result of our analyses, we have direct evidence of the best approach.
”MEMS manufacturers could make use of the batteries themselves, a million of which can be fabricated on a square centimeter of a silicon wafer. But the same manufacturers also could benefit from the team’s analytical toolset. Oleshko points out that the young, rapidly emerging field of additive manufacturing, which creates devices by building up component materials layer by layer, often needs to analyze its creations in a noninvasive way. For that job, the team’s approach might take the cake.
*V.P. Oleshko, T. Lam, D. Ruzmetov, P. Haney, H.J. Lezec, A.V. Davydov, S.Krylyuk, J.Cumings and A.A. Talin. Miniature all-solid-state heterostructure nanowire Li-ion batteries as a tool for engineering and structural diagnostics of nanoscale electrochemical processes. Nanoscale, DOI: 0.1039/c4nr01666a, Aug. 15, 2014.
Media Contact: Chad Boutin, firstname.lastname@example.org, 301-975-4261
NIST Megacities Carbon Project Named 'Project to Watch' by United Nations
A greenhouse gas field measurement research program developed by scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and several collaborating institutions has been named a “Project to Watch” by a United Nations organization that focuses on harnessing big data for worldwide benefit.
The Megacities Carbon Project was launched in 2012 to solve a pressing scientific problem: how to measure the greenhouse gases that cities produce. Urban areas generate at least 70 percent of the world’s fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions, but gauging a city’s carbon footprint remains difficult due to the lack of effective measurement methods. The project aims to change that by developing and testing techniques for both monitoring urban areas’ emissions and determining their sources.
The large sensor networks that each city in the Megacities Carbon Project employs generate huge amounts of data that could reveal the details of the cities’ emissions patterns. It is the project’s use of this so-called “big data” that drew accolades in the Big Data Climate Challenge, hosted by U.N. Global Pulse and the U.N. Secretary General’s Climate Change Support Team. The ability to analyze big data—vast quantities of electronic information generated by many sources—has the potential to provide new insights into the workings of society, and Global Pulse is working to promote awareness of the opportunities big data presents across the U.N. system.
Launched in May 2014, the competition attracted submissions from organizations in 40 countries. The applicants ran from academia to private companies to government initiatives like the Megacities Carbon Project. Two projects earned top honors, while a total of seven were dubbed Projects to Watch.
The Megacities project began with a pilot observing system for Los Angeles supported by NIST, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the California Air Resources Board and the Keck Institute for Space Studies. It has since expanded to include an observing system in Paris, France, and has drawn upon the expertise of additional participating institutions.
The project is one of several NIST efforts to improve the accuracy of greenhouse gas measurements in urban areas. These efforts focus largely on the development of urban test beds, where methods for measuring and verifying greenhouse gas data can be explored and improved. In addition to Los Angeles, U.S. test beds are located in Indianapolis, Ind., (the Indianapolis Flux Experiment, INFLUX) and the northeast corridor, with initial development in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., region.
More information on NIST’s work on the Megacities project is available at www.nist.gov/greenhouse-gas/research/lamegacities.cfm.
Edited first paragraph on Sept. 16, 2014, to clarify the research nature of the project.
Media Contact: Chad Boutin, email@example.com, 301-975-4261
Three'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 the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
Entanglement is a special feature of the quantum world in which certain properties of individual particles become linked such that knowledge of the quantum state of any one particle dictates that of the others. Entanglement plays a critical role in quantum information systems. Prior to this work it was impossible to entangle more than two photons without also destroying their fragile quantum states.
Entangled photon triplets could be useful in quantum computing and quantum communications—technologies with potentially vast power based on storing and manipulating information in quantum states—as well as achieving elusive goals in physics dating back to Einstein. The team went on to use the entangled triplets to perform a key test of quantum mechanics.
The Waterloo/NIST experiment, described in Nature Photonics,* generated three photons with entangled polarization—vertical or horizontal orientation—at a rate of 660 triplets per hour. (The same research group previously entangled the timing and energy of three photons, a state that is more difficult to use in quantum information systems.)
“The NIST detectors enabled us to take data almost 100 times faster,” says NIST physicist Krister Shalm, who was a postdoctoral researcher at Waterloo. “The detectors enabled us to do things we just couldn’t do before. They allowed us to speed everything up so the experiment could be much more stable, which greatly improved the quality of our results.”
The experiments started with a blue photon that was polarized both vertically and horizontally—such a superposition of two states is another unique feature of the quantum world. The photon was sent through a special crystal that converted it to two entangled red daughter photons, each with half the original energy. Researchers engineered the system to ensure that this pair had identical polarization. Then one daughter photon was sent through another crystal to generate two near-infrared granddaughter photons entangled with the second daughter photon.
The result was three entangled photons with the same polarization, either horizontal or vertical—which could represent 0 and 1 in a quantum computer or quantum communications system. As an added benefit, the granddaughter photons had a wavelength commonly used in telecommunications, so they can be transmitted through fiber, an advantage for practical applications.
Triplets are rare. In this process, called cascaded down-conversion, the first stage works only about 1 in a billion times, and the second is not much better: 1 in a million. To measure experimental polarization results against 27 possible states of a set of three photons, researchers performed forensic reconstructions by taking snapshot measurements of the quantum states of thousands of triplets. The NIST detectors were up to these tasks, able to detect and measure individual photons at telecom wavelengths more than 90 percent of the time.
The superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors incorporated key recent improvements made at NIST, chiefly the use of tungsten silicide, which among other benefits greatly boosted efficiency.**
To demonstrate the quality and value of the triplets, researchers tested local realism—finding evidence that, as quantum theory predicts, entangled particles do not have specific values before being measured.*** Researchers also measured one of each of a succession of triplets to show they could herald or announce the presence of the remaining entangled pairs. An on-demand system like this would be useful in quantum repeaters, which could extend the range of quantum communications systems, or sharing of secret data encryption keys.
With improvements in conversion efficiency through use of novel materials or other means, it may be possible to add more stages to the down-conversion process to generate four or more entangled photons.
The work was supported in part by the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation Early Researcher Award, Quantum Works, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Ontario Centres of Excellence, Industry Canada, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Canada Research Chairs and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation.
*D.R. Hamel, L.K. Shalm, H.H. Hubel, A.J. Miller, F. Marsili, V.B. Verma, R.P. Mirin, S.W. Nam, K.J. Resch and T. Jennewein. Direct generation of three-photon polarization entanglement. Nature Photonics. Published online Sept. 14.
**For more about the detectors, see the 2011 NIST Tech Beat article, “Key Ingredient: Change in Material Boosts Prospects of Ultrafast Single-photon