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Tech Beat - September 22, 2009

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Editor: Michael Baum
Date created: December 29, 2010
Date Modified: December 5, 2011 
Contact: inquiries@nist.gov

New Nanochemistry Technique Encases Single Molecules in Microdroplets

single-molecule drop dispenser

The NIST "on-demand" single-molecule drop dispenser: Water flows through a microfluidic channel, roughly 35 microns wide, and enters a narrow constriction where it breaks up into droplets. Varying the width of the constriction changes the size of the drops and lacing the water with desired molecules of just the right concentration causes the resulting droplets to pick up single molecules of interest 99 percent of the time.

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Credit: C. López-Mariscal and K. Helmerson, NIST
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Inventing a useful new tool for creating chemical reactions between single molecules, scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have employed microfluidics—the manipulation of fluids at the microscopic scale—to make microdroplets that contain single molecules of interest. By combining this new microfluidic "droplet-on-demand" method with "optical tweezers" that could merge multiple droplets and cause their molecular contents to react, the research may ultimately lead to a compact, integrated setup for obtaining single-molecule information on the structure and function of important organic materials, such as proteins, enzymes, and DNA.

With the aid of NIST’s Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, physicists Carlos López-Mariscal and Kristian Helmerson created a tiny microfluidic device with a channel through which water can flow. Squeezed into a narrow stream by a mixture of oils whose viscosity, or resistance to flow, exerts pressure on it, the water then enters a narrow constriction. The water’s abrupt pressure drop—accompanied by a dash of detergent—breaks its surface tension, splitting it into small droplets. (This same effect occurs when a thin stream of water falling from a faucet breaks up into small drops.)

The droplet sizes are highly uniform and can be tuned by adjusting the width of the constriction. With this technique, the researchers made droplets about a micrometer in diameter—or half an attoliter (half a billionth of a billionth of a liter) in volume.

In the microfluidic channel, the water is laced with desired molecules of just the right concentration, so that resulting droplets each pick up on average just one molecule of interest. Inside each droplet, the individual molecules of interest slosh around freely in the relatively roomy sphere, along with the water molecules that make up the bulk of every droplet.

By using laser beams, the researchers can move two or more single-molecule-containing droplets, cause them to coalesce, and observe the reactions through optical methods. For their initial reactions, the researchers are mixing fluorescent molecules that emit different colors, but in the future, they envision more interesting chemical reactions, such as those between an infectious agent and an antibody, or a chromosome and a drug. The researchers can shape a laser beam into any desired pattern and thereby trap not only single drops, but arrays of them, opening up new possibilities for single-molecule spectroscopy.

* C. López-Mariscal and K. Helmerson. Optical trapping of hydrosomes. Proc. SPIE, Vol. 7400, 740026 (2009).

Media Contact: Ben Stein, inquiries@nist.gov, 301-975-3097

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Therapeutic Nanoparticles Give New Meaning to Sugar-Coating Medicine

A research team at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) studying sugar-coated nanoparticles for use as a possible cancer therapy has uncovered a delicate balancing act that makes the particles more effective than conventional thinking says they should be. Just like individuals in a crowd respecting other people’s personal space, the particles work because they get close together, but not too close.

iron-centered nanoparticle and tumor cells

An iron-centered nanoparticle (left) analyzed at NIST’s Center for Neutron Research has a coating of the sugar dextran, whose tendrils prevent groups of the particles from clumping. When tumor cells ingest them (right), the particles still congregate closely enough to share heat when stimulated by a magnetic field, killing the cells. White arrow indicates a red blood cell.

Credit: (l.) J. Aarons; (r.) A. Guistini, R. Strawbridge and P. Hoopes, Dartmouth College
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In cooperation with colleagues at The Johns Hopkins University, Dartmouth College, the University of Manitoba and two biopharmaceutical companies, the NIST team has demonstrated* that the particles—essentially sugar-coated bits of iron oxide, about 100 nanometers wide—are potent cancer killers because they interact with one another in ways that smaller nanoparticles do not. The interactions, thought by many bioengineers to be undesirable, actually help the larger particles heat up better when subjected to an alternating magnetic field. Because this heat destroys cancer cells, the team’s findings may help engineers design better particles and treatment methods.

Nanoparticles hold the promise of battling cancer without the damaging side effects of chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Minuscule balls of iron oxide can be coated with sugar molecules making them particularly attractive to resource-hungry cancer cells. Once the particles are injected, cancer cells would then ingest them, and doctors would then be able to apply an alternating magnetic field that causes the iron oxide centers to heat, killing the cancer but leaving surrounding tissue unharmed.

Two biotech companies, Micromod Partikeltechnologie and Aduro BioTech, created particles that showed great potential in treating cancers in mice, and they asked NIST to help understand why it worked so well. “But they sent us particles that were much larger than what the conventional wisdom says they should be,” says NIST materials scientist Cindi Dennis. “Larger particles are more strongly magnetic and tend to clump together, which makes them large enough to attract the body’s defense systems before they can reach a tumor. The companies’ nanoparticles, however, did not have this problem.”

Neutron scattering probes at the NIST Center for Neutron Research revealed that the particles’ larger iron oxide cores attract one another, but that the sugar coating has fibers extending out, making it resemble a dandelion—and these fibers push against one another when two particles get too close together, making them spring apart and maintain an antibody-defying distance rather than clumping. Moreover, when the particles do get close, the iron oxide centers all rotate together under the influence of a magnetic field, both generating more heat and depositing this heat locally. All these factors helped the nanoparticles destroy breast tumors in three out of four mice after one treatment with no regrowth.

“The push-pull is part of a tug of war that fixes the distance between nanoparticles,” Dennis says. “This suggests we can stabilize interacting particles in ways that potentially pay off in the clinic.”

The research was funded by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and used facilities supported by the National Science Foundation.

* C.L. Dennis, A.J. Jackson, J.A. Borchers, P.J. Hoopes, R. Strawbridge, A.R. Foreman, J. van Lierop, C. Gruttner and R. Ivkov. Nearly complete regression of tumors via collective behavior of magnetic nanoparticles in hyperthermia. Nanotechnology, 20 (2009) 395103. [doi:10.1088/0957-4484/20/39/395103]

Media Contact: Chad Boutin, boutin@nist.gov, 301-975-4261

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New NIST Nano-Ruler Sets Some Very Small Marks

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has issued a new ruler, and even for an organization that routinely deals in superlatives, it sets some records. Designed to be the most accurate commercially available “meter stick” for the nano world, the new measuring tool—a calibration standard for X-ray diffraction—boasts uncertainties below a femtometer. That’s 0.000 000 000 000 001 meter, or roughly the size of a neutron.

The new ruler is in the form of a thin, multilayer silicon chip 25 millimeters square (just under an inch). Each one is individually measured and certified by NIST for the spacing and angles of the crystal planes of silicon atoms in the base crystal.

X-ray diffraction works by sending X-rays through a crystal—which could be anything from a wafer used to make microchips to a crystallized sample of an unknown protein—and observing the patterns made by the X-rays as they diffract from electrons in the crystal. The spacing, angles and intensity of the pattern’s lines tell a trained crystallographer the relative positions of the atoms in the crystal, as well as something about the quality of the crystal, the nature of the chemical bonds and more. It is one of the workhorse techniques of materials science and engineering. The precision version, high-resolution X-ray diffraction, can be used to determine the thickness, crystal structure, embedded strain and orientation of thin films used in advanced semiconductor devices and nanotechnologies.

Formally NIST Standard Reference Material (SRM) 2000, “Calibration Standard for High-Resolution X-Ray Diffraction,” the new ruler gives crystallographers an extremely well-known crystal sample for calibrating their precision instruments. It was made possible by the development of a unique parallel beam diffractometer at NIST that makes measurements traceable to international measurement standards and is believed to be the most accurate angle measuring device of its kind in the world. The NIST instrument can measure angles with an accuracy better than an arc second, 1/3600 of a degree. “Our accuracy is at about the angle made by the diameter of a quarter—if you’re looking at it from two miles away,” explains NIST materials scientist Donald Windover, “The precision is better, about the size of Washington’s nose.”

Because the crystal lattice values for SRM 2000—spacing, tilt, orientation—are traceable to SI units, the new material provides an absolute reference for high-precision calibrations. Details are available at https://www-s.nist.gov/srmors/view_detail.cfm?srm=2000.

Standard Reference Materials are among the most widely distributed and used products from NIST. The agency prepares, analyzes and distributes more than a thousand different materials that are used throughout the world to check the accuracy of instruments and test procedures used in manufacturing, clinical chemistry, environmental monitoring, electronics, criminal forensics and dozens of other fields. For more information, see NIST’s SRM Web page at http://ts.nist.gov/measurementservices/referencematerials.

Media Contact: Michael Baum, michael.baum@nist.gov, 301-975-2763

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Diamonds May Be the Ultimate MRI Probe, Say Quantum Physicists

Diamonds, it has long been said, are a girl's best friend. But a research team including a physicist from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has recently found* that the gems might turn out to be a patient’s best friend as well.

illustration of nitrogen vacancy within a diamond crystal

A nitrogen vacancy (small circles) within a diamond crystal shows promise as a “bit” for quantum computers in part because of its great sensitivity to magnetic fields—a sensitivity that also could enable MRI-like studies on objects as small as living cells or single molecules. When green light strikes the nitrogen vacancy, it fluoresces red; detecting variations in this fluorescence permit scientists to extract its information.

Credit: J. Taylor, NIST
View hi-resolution image.

The team’s work has the long-term goal of developing quantum computers, but it has borne fruit that may have more immediate application in medical science. Their finding that a candidate “quantum bit” has great sensitivity to magnetic fields hints that MRI-like devices that can probe individual drug molecules and living cells may be possible.

The candidate system, formed from a nitrogen atom lodged within a diamond crystal, is promising not only because it can sense atomic-scale variations in magnetism, but also because it functions at room temperature. Most other such devices used either in quantum computation or for magnetic sensing must be cooled to nearly absolute zero to operate, making it difficult to place them near live tissue. However, using the nitrogen as a sensor or switch could sidestep that limitation.

Diamond, which is formed of pure carbon, occasionally has minute imperfections within its crystalline lattice. A common impurity is a “nitrogen vacancy”, in which two carbon atoms are replaced by a single atom of nitrogen, leaving the other carbon atom’s space vacant. Nitrogen vacancies are in part responsible for diamond’s famed luster, for they are actually fluorescent: when green light strikes them, the nitrogen atom’s two excitable unpaired electrons glow a brilliant red.

The team can use slight variations in this fluorescence to determine the magnetic spin of a single electron in the nitrogen. Spin is a quantum property that has a value of either “up” or “down,” and therefore could represent one or zero in binary computation. The team’s recent achievement was to transfer this quantum information repeatedly between the nitrogen electron and the nuclei of adjacent carbon atoms, forming a small circuit capable of logic operations. Reading a quantum bit’s spin information—a fundamental task for a quantum computer—has been a daunting challenge, but the team demonstrated that by transferring the information back and forth between the electron and the nuclei, the information could be amplified, making it much easier to read.

Still, NIST theoretical physicist Jacob Taylor said the findings are “evolutionary, not revolutionary” for the quantum computing field and that the medical world may reap practical benefits from the discovery long before a working quantum computer is built. He envisions diamond-tipped sensors performing magnetic resonance tests on individual cells within the body, or on single molecules drug companies want to investigate—a sort of MRI scanner for the microscopic. “That’s commonly thought not to be possible because in both of these cases the magnetic fields are so small,” Taylor says. “But this technique has very low toxicity and can be done at room temperature. It could potentially look inside a single cell and allow us to visualize what’s happening in different spots.”

The Harvard University-based team also includes scientists from the Joint Quantum Institute (a partnership of NIST and the University of Maryland), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Texas A&M University.

* L. Jiang, J.S. Hodges, J.R. Maze, P. Maurer, J.M. Taylor, D.G. Cory, P.R. Hemmer, R.L. Walsworth, A. Yacoby, A.S. Zibrov and M.D. Lukin. Repetitive readout of a single electronic spin via quantum logic with nuclear spin ancillae. Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1176496, published online Sept. 10, 2009.

Media Contact: Chad Boutin, boutin@nist.gov, 301-975-4261

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October IT Security Automation Conference to Highlight Healthcare IT, Cloud Computing

The Fifth Annual IT Security Automation Conference, co-hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), will focus on emerging technologies designed to support the security automation needs of multiple sectors. The conference will be held Oct. 26-29 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

This year’s expanded conference includes several new conference tracks on the use of security automation in support of healthcare IT/Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA); how security automation tools and technologies can ease the technical burdens of policy compliance; and how the rapidly evolving cloud computing sector can integrate security automation to achieve significant benefits. The first and last days are devoted to tutorials and workshops for novices and experts.

This conference with workshops and an expo presents projects and integration efforts that facilitate the automation and standardization of computer vulnerability management, security measurement and compliance checking. In the past, these common challenges have been complicated by multiple proprietary methodologies and technologies that make it difficult to collect, correlate, remediate and report on mission-critical systems and data. Security automation reduces the complexity and time necessary to manage these functions, creating a secure and trusted computing environment that frees up resources to focus on other areas of the IT infrastructure.

The conference is co-hosted by NIST, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). The four agencies are actively involved in work to automate computer security.

The IT Security Automation Conference is geared toward public and private sector senior executives, security managers and staff, information technology professionals and developers of products and services. Additional conference tracks include:

  • Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP) Implementation,
  • SCAP Technical Challenges,
  • Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA),
  • Department of Defense (DoD) Infrastructure Strategy, Vulnerability Identification and Remediation Architecture, and
  • Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS).

Tutorial and workshops on DoC, DoD and DHS technologies and initiatives will be offered, such as:

  • Federal Desktop Core Configuration (FDCC),
  • Emerging Standards and Specifications,
  • SCAP Validated Tools,
  • Content Validation, and
  • Case Studies.

Online registration is available at http://scap.nist.gov/events, and there is a $100 early registration discount available until Oct. 5. Reporters interested in attending should contact Evelyn Brown (301) 975-5661.

Media Contact: Evelyn Brown, evelyn.brown@nist.gov, 301-975-5661

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New Beryllium Reference Material for Occupational Safety Monitoring

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in collaboration with private industry and other government agencies, have produced a new reference material for beryllium. Beryllium, an exotic metal used as a hardener in high-performance alloys and ceramics, can cause berylliosis—a chronic, incurable and sometimes fatal illness. The new reference material is expected to dramatically improve methods used to monitor workers’ exposure and aid in contamination control as well as toxicological research.

scanning electron microscope image of beryllium oxide powder

The new Standard Reference Material, Beryllium Oxide Powder (SRM 1877), shown in this transmission electron micrograph mimics the form of beryllium to which workers would be exposed much more closely and should facilitate much more representative and informative toxicological studies, more accurate monitoring and more effective clean up of contaminated areas.

Credit: R. Dickerson, Los Alamos National Laboratory
View hi-resolution image

The use of beryllium in manufacturing dates back to the advent of the atomic age. One of the scientists involved with the famous Chicago experiment known as Chicago Pile-1 to create the first artificial self-sustaining nuclear reaction in 1942 died of berylliosis in 1988. Aside from the nuclear industry, the unique properties of beryllium make it valuable in the manufacture of aircraft and supercolliders.

Beryllium dust can cause a condition characterized by chronic skin and/or respiratory inflammation resembling pneumonia in susceptible individuals and can increase the risk of lung cancers with long periods of exposure. Treating the particles as a threat, the body’s immune system floods the affected area with white blood cells. The cells surround the beryllium particles and harden to form inflamed tissue nodules called granulomas. These granulomas can lodge under the skin or in lung tissue where they cause difficulty breathing and a host of other symptoms including fatigue, weight loss and muscle pain. The condition, although treatable, is incurable.

The new Standard Reference Material, Beryllium Oxide Powder (SRM 1877), consists of high-fired crystalline beryllium oxide that has been thoroughly characterized physically and chemically. The particles that make up the powder have an average diameter of about 200 nanometers and have been separated into aggregated clusters that will pass through a 20 mesh screen. NIST scientists Greg Turk and Mike Winchester used a high performance inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry technique developed at NIST to certify the mass fraction (the ratio of pure beryllium in the beryllium oxide) in the compound. NIST provided its partners with support to perform the preparations and did the final analysis of the solutions when they were completed.

According to Winchester, previous analytical tests for exposure monitoring relied on an easily dissolved form of beryllium that was not representative of what people would be exposed to in the field. The new SRM mimics the form of beryllium to which workers would be exposed much more closely and should facilitate much more representative and informative toxicological studies, more sensitive monitoring and more effective clean up of contaminated areas.

The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration sponsored the development of the new SRM. NIST collaborators included the Savannah River Site in Aiken S.C.; the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn.; Bureau Veritas in Novi, Mich.; and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Morgantown, W. Va.

Additional data and ordering information for SRM 1877, Beryllium Oxide Powder, is available at https://www-s.nist.gov/srmors/view_detail.cfm?srm=1877.

Standard Reference Materials are among the most widely distributed and used products from NIST. The agency prepares, analyzes and distributes more than a thousand different materials that are used throughout the world to check the accuracy of instruments and test procedures used in manufacturing, clinical chemistry, environmental monitoring, electronics, criminal forensics and dozens of other fields. For more information, see NIST’s SRM Web page at http://ts.nist.gov/measurementservices/referencematerials.

Media Contact: Mark Esser, mark.esser@nist.gov, 301-975-8735

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Fifteen to Receive Site Visits as Next Step Toward 2009 Baldrige Award

The Panel of Judges for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s highest recognition for organizational performance excellence, has selected 15 organizations for the final review stage for the 2009 Award. Starting this month, teams of business, education, health care and nonprofit experts will make site visits to two organizations in the manufacturing category, two in small business, one in education, eight in health care and two nonprofits. There were no organizations chosen for site visits in the service category.

The Baldrige Program received 70 applications in 2009 (two manufacturers, four service companies, five small businesses, nine educational organizations, 42 health care organizations and eight nonprofit/governmental organizations). The applicants were evaluated rigorously by an independent board of examiners in seven areas: leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce focus; process management; and results. Examiners will provide each applicant receiving a site visit, 300 to 1,000 hours of review, and all applicants will receive a detailed report on the organization’s strengths and opportunities for improvement.

The 2009 Baldrige Award recipients are expected to be announced in late November.

Named after Malcolm Baldrige, the 26th Secretary of Commerce, the Baldrige Award was established by Congress in 1987. The award—managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in collaboration with the private sector—promotes excellence in organizational performance, recognizes the achievements and results of U.S. organizations, and publicizes successful performance strategies. The award is not given for specific products or services. Since 1988, 75 organizations have received Baldrige Awards.

The Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence have played a valuable role in helping organizations of all types improve their operations. The Criteria are designed to help organizations improve their performance by focusing on three goals: delivering ever-improving value to customers and stakeholders, improving the organization’s overall effectiveness, and organizational and personal learning. The Criteria have been widely distributed since 1988, and this past year, they were downloaded more than 1.8 million times from the Baldrige Web site.

For more information on the Baldrige National Quality Program, see www.nist.gov/baldrige.

Media Contact: Michael E. Newman, michael.newman@nist.gov, 301-975-3025

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Gallagher Nominated to be 14th NIST Director

portrait of Patrick Gallagher

NIST Deputy Director Pat Gallagher

photo credit: D. Anderson/NIST
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On Sept. 10, the White House announced President Barack Obama’s intention to nominate physicist Patrick Gallagher to be the 14th director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Gallagher, 46, is currently the NIST deputy director.

Commenting on the nomination, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said, “NIST is a unique agency with a strong culture of world-class scientific achievement. Pat Gallagher has come up through the ranks and his continued leadership will be critical to an agency that is central to the nation’s ability to innovate and compete in global markets.”

If confirmed by the Senate, Gallagher will direct an agency with an annual budget of approximately $800 million that employs approximately 2,900 scientists, engineers, technicians, support staff and administrative personnel at two primary locations: Gaithersburg, Md., and Boulder, Colo. Gallagher will succeed William Jeffrey, who left NIST in 2007.

Gallagher, who has a doctorate in physics from the University of Pittsburgh, came to the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) in 1993 to pursue research in neutron and X-ray instrumentation and studies of soft-condensed matter systems such as liquids, polymers and gels. In 2004, he became director of the NCNR, a national user facility for neutron research that is considered one of the most productive and heavily used facilities of its type in the nation. In September 2008, he was appointed deputy director of NIST.

For more information, see “U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke Statement on President Obama’s Intent to Nominate Patrick Gallagher as Director of NIST.”

Media Contact: Michael Baum, baum@nist.gov, 301-975-2763

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Updated NIST 'Master Plan' Sent to Capital Planning Commission

Planned and potential expansions and new facilities across campus, the addition of 400-500 kilowatts in power from solar panels, and increasing already heavy employee use of alternative transportation to a daily rate of 40 percent are among the highlights of an updated Master Plan for the Gaithersburg, Md., campus of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). NIST has delivered its plan to the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), the central planning agency for federal land and buildings in the National Capital Region.

The document, which anticipates NIST facilities needs through 2020 and beyond, lists planned and possible future additions and improvements to the Gaithersburg campus; their actual implementation will depend upon available resources in the NIST budget. Detailing both planned and potential new buildings and additions to be constructed on the agency’s 235-hectare (580-acre) Gaithersburg campus, as well as a host of energy, environmental and transportation improvements, the plan is the first major NIST facilities update since the 1990s and is designed to meet current NCPC requirements.

In all, the Master Plan describes new construction projects totaling more than 10,000 square meters (100,000 square feet), including a new NIST child care facility designed to accommodate 154 children, a robotics research and development facility, a consolidated fire and police emergency services facility to replace outdated facilities, a National Structural Fire Research Laboratory for research on new fire-resistant materials and structures, and a Net-Zero Energy Residential Building to study state-of-the-art residential-building components and energy conservation technologies.

The plan also proposes additions to existing NIST buildings, as well as renovations to NIST general purpose laboratories, some of which are more than 40 years old, to bring them in line with present-day scientific needs. Built in the early 1960s, the NIST-Gaithersburg campus now includes 55 buildings, with approximately 3,600 employees, guest researchers and contractors on campus during an average workday.

The Master Plan also initiates and continues a host of energy and environmental improvements on campus, including the installation of photovoltaic solar panels that deliver 400-500 kilowatts (kW) of power on campus to supplement NIST’s existing 28 kW system.

NCPC will distribute the plan to multiple agencies, including the City of Gaithersburg and Montgomery County government, for their input, and an NCPC commission will review and consider a finalized version of the plan at a Dec. 3 meeting.

For more details, see “NIST Submits Updated Master Plan for Gaithersburg Campus.”

Media Contact: Ben Stein, ben.stein@nist.gov, 301-975-3097

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Workshop Aims to Establish Standards for Voting Machine Data

To facilitate audits of election results and making the election process more transparent, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will host a workshop next month to discuss creating a common digital “language” for the data produced by electronic voting systems.

The Common Data Format Workshop, to be held Oct. 29 and 30 at NIST’s campus in Gaithersburg, Md., will bring together election officials, auditors, manufacturers, testing labs, and others involved in election analysis. Because the subject matter is so new, the workshop’s discussions will aim to establish agreement on what the goals of a common format should be.

“While there have been many calls for a common data format workshop for voting systems, there is little consensus on the requirements for this format, or what it should accomplish,” says computer security expert John Wack, part of NIST’s voting team. In addition to auditability and transparency, Wack says that possible goals include integration between polling and registration devices, easing the transition to electronic record-keeping, or the ability to make data public.

To register for the workshop, please contact Karen Yavetz at karen.yavetz@nist.gov or (301) 975-8498. For more information, visit www.nist.gov/public_affairs/confpage/091029.htm.

Media Contact: Evelyn Brown, evelyn.brown@nist.gov, 301-975-5661

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NIST Updates Popular Guide to Radio-Controlled Clocks

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has updated its popular guide to radio-controlled clocks. Many millions of radio-controlled clocks, watches, and other timepieces are automatically synchronized to official NIST time through special NIST radio broadcasts. The guide is intended to help manufacturers develop reliable and usable radio-controlled clocks, and help consumers select appropriate products, learn how they work, and troubleshoot reception problems.

In the United States, the signals received by radio-controlled clocks originate from NIST Radio Station WWVB, located near Fort Collins, Colo. When working properly, radio-controlled clocks always display the correct time and date, down to the exact second, and never require adjustments. Radio-controlled clocks are automatically updated for such changes as Daylight Saving Time, leap years, and leap seconds.

The updated guide contains a number of changes, including the revised rules for Daylight Saving Time, corrections in time zone tables, and several new recommendations for manufacturers. The guide also lists the latest WWVB specifications, several of which were changed—broadcast power was boosted, for instance—to make radio-controlled clocks work better.

The guide is among NIST’s most requested publications. Each year, the guide is downloaded from the NIST web site about 100,000 times, and an additional 500 hard copies are disseminated.

WWVB Radio Controlled Clocks: Recommended Practices for Manufacturers and Consumers (2009 Edition) is available online at http://tf.nist.gov/general/pdf/2422.pdf. You may also receive a printed copy by sending your mailing address to sp960@boulder.nist.gov or calling (303) 497- 4343.

Media Contact: Michael Baum, michael.baum@nist.gov, 301-975-2763

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Two Named to Earthquake Advisory Board

Two distinguished earthquake experts have been named to serve on the Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction (ACEHR) of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) by Patrick Gallagher, deputy director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and acting NEHRP Interagency Coordinating Committee chair.

Established by the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977, NEHRP is the federal government’s program to reduce the risks to life and property from earthquakes. NIST serves as the lead agency of NEHRP, a consortium of federal agencies that also includes the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Science Foundation and the United States Geological Survey.

The new ACEHR members are John Hooper, director, Earthquake Engineering, of Magnusson Klemencic Associates, Seattle, Wash., and Susan Tubbesing, executive director, Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, Oakland, Calif. They join a group of 13 previously appointed academic, industry and government experts on the ACEHR.

The committee’s responsibilities include assessing trends and developments in the science and engineering of earthquake hazards reduction; overseeing the effectiveness of NEHRP in improving design and construction methods and practices; advancing prediction techniques and early-warning systems; assessing coordinated emergency preparedness plans and public education and involvement programs; and managing, coordinating and implementing NEHRP activities.

More information on NEHRP can be found at www.nehrp.gov.

Media Contact: Michael Baum, michael.baum@nist.gov, 301-975-2763

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NIST to Receive 2008 Federal Library of the Year Award

The Library of Congress Federal Library & Information Center Committee (FLICC) has announced that the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Information Services Division (ISD) will receive the 2008 Federal Library of the Year Award for the Large Library/Information Center Category, which applies to facilities with staffs of 11 or more. Federal libraries throughout the United States and abroad competed for the award. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington will present this year’s awards at the 26th Annual FLICC Forum on Federal Information Policies on Oct. 22, 2009, at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

The NIST division is recognized for its Lab Liaison Program, implementation of an electronic resources management system, and creation of a Vision Implementation Project, to engage its staff in understanding the ISD vision and participating in strategic planning. The division also received the Federal Library of the Year Award for 2003. More information at www.loc.gov/flicc/Awards/libctr_main.html.

Media Contact: Ben Stein, ben.stein@nist.gov, 301-975-3097

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