In This Issue...
In Unique Fire Tests, Outdoor Decks Will Be Under Firebrand Attack
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will unleash its Dragon—a NIST invention that bellows showers of glowing embers, or firebrands—at a unique wind tunnel test facility in Japan, where researchers will evaluate the vulnerability of outdoor deck assemblies and materials to ignition during wildfires, a growing peril that accounts for half of the nation’s 10 most costly fires.
In 2005, NIST began the cooperative research effort with BRI that ultimately led to the NIST Dragon becoming a permanent resident at BRI. NIST and BRI have used the combined facility to study the vulnerability of siding treatments, window glazing assemblies, and overhanging eaves to ignition during realistic firebrand showers. Results are shared with standards and regulatory bodies, insurers, and trade associations to inform their decisions on material and building requirements.
* S.L. Manzello and S. Suzuki. Summary of the 2011 Workshop on Research Needs for Full Scale Testing to Determine Vulnerabilities of Decking Assemblies to Ignition by Firebrand Showers. NIST Special Publication 1129, Aug. 2011.
Media Contact: Mark Bello, email@example.com, (301) 975-3776
NIST Polishes Method for Creating Tiny Diamond Machines
Diamonds may be best known as a symbol of long-lasting love. But semiconductor makers are also hoping they'll pan out as key components of long-lasting micromachines if a new method developed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for carving these tough, capable crystals proves its worth.* The method offers a precise way to engineer microscopic cuts in a diamond surface, yielding potential benefits in both measurement and technological fields.
By combining their own observations with background gleaned from materials science, NIST semiconductor researchers have found a way to create unique features in diamond—potentially leading to improvements in nanometrology in short order, as it has allowed the team to make holes of precise shape in one of the hardest known substances. But beyond the creation of virtually indestructible nanorulers, the method could one day lead to the improvement of a class of electronic devices useful in cell phones, gyroscopes and medical implants.
Well known for making the hugely complex electronic microchips that run our laptops, the semiconductor industry has expanded its portfolio by fabricating tiny devices with moving parts. Constructed with substantially the same techniques as the electronic chips, these “micro-electromechanical systems,” or MEMS, are just a few micrometers in size. They can detect environmental changes such as heat, pressure and acceleration, potentially enabling them to form the basis of tiny sensors and actuators for a host of new devices. But designers must take care that tiny moving parts do not grind to a disastrous halt. One way to make the sliding parts last longer without breaking down is to make them from a tougher material than silicon.
“Diamond may be the ideal substance for MEMS devices,” says NIST’s Craig McGray. “It can withstand extreme conditions, plus it’s able to vibrate at the very high frequencies that new consumer electronics demand. But it’s very hard, of course, and there hasn’t been a way to engineer it very precisely at small scales. We think our method can accomplish that.”
The method uses a chemical etching process to create cavities in the diamond surface. The cubic shape of a diamond crystal can be sliced in several ways—a fact jewelers take advantage of when creating facets on gemstones. The speed of the etching process depends on the orientation of the slice, occurring at a far slower rate in the direction of the cube’s “faces”—think of chopping the cube into smaller cubes—and these face planes can be used as a sort of boundary where etching can be made to stop when desired. In their initial experiments, the team created cavities ranging in width from 1 to 72 micrometers, each with smooth vertical sidewalls and a flat bottom.
“We’d like to figure out how to optimize control of this process next,” McGray says, “but some of the ways diamond behaved under the conditions we used were unexpected. We plan to explore some of these mysteries while we develop a prototype diamond MEMS device.”
* C.D. McGray, R.A. Allen, M. Cangemi and J. Geist. Rectangular scale-similar etch pits in monocrystalline diamond. Diamond and Related Materials. Available online 22 August 2011, ISSN 0925-9635, 10.1016/j.diamond.2011.08.007.
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Metric Week Begins October 9!
Counting the seconds until Metric Week (Oct. 9-15, 2011) begins? That’s the spirit! Seconds are the metric unit of time. You also could figure your distance in meters (the metric unit of length) from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) labs in Gaithersburg, Md., where it’s metric all year round.
This year, representatives from the NIST Metric Program will be celebrating Metric Week with more than 4,000 students and teachers at the Science and Technology Education Partnership (STEP) conference in Riverside, Calif., Oct. 25-26. Teachers and students who are interested in learning more about SI may download a variety of educational materials from NIST:
Teachers can also request a classroom set of SI educational materials by submitting their contact information and grade level to TheSI@nist.gov.
More information about Metric Week can be found at these sites:
Media Contact: Mark Esser, email@example.com, (301) 975-8735
Comprehensive Risk Assessment Guidance for Federal Information Systems Published
Risk assessment is the topic of the newest special publication from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Guide for Conducting Risk Assessments (NIST Special Publication 800-30, Revision 1), an extensive update to its original 2002 publication, is the authoritative source of comprehensive risk assessment guidance for federal information systems, and is open for public comments through November 4.
"Risk assessments can help federal agencies effectively evaluate the current threat, organizational and information system vulnerabilities, potential adverse impacts to core missions and business operations—using the results to determine appropriate risk responses," said NIST Fellow Ron Ross.
Overall guidance on risk management for information systems is now covered in Managing Information Security Risk: Organization, Mission, and Information System View (NIST SP 800-39), issued last March.* The updated SP 800-30 now focuses exclusively on risk assessments, one of the four steps in risk management, says Ross.
As threats to computer systems grow more complex and sophisticated, risk assessments are an important tool for organizations to rely on as part of a comprehensive risk management program Ross explains. Risk assessments help organizations:
Guide for Conducting Risk Assessments also describes how to apply the risk assessment process at the three tiers of the risk management hierarchy outlined in Special Publication 800-39. Sample templates, tables and assessment scales for common risk factors are provided for users to adapt to their own organizational risk assessments based on the purpose, scope, assumptions, and constraints of the assessments.
Guide for Conducting Risk Assessments is the fifth guideline developed for the unified information security framework under the direction of the Joint Task Force, a joint partnership among the Department of Defense, the intelligence community, NIST and the Committee on National Security Systems. The task force will continue to collaborate on protecting federal information systems and the nation's critical information infrastructure.
Guide for Conducting Risk Assessments (Special Publication 800-30, Revision 1) may be downloaded from: http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/drafts/800-30-rev1/SP800-30-Rev1-ipd.pdf. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org by Nov. 4.
* Managing Information Security Risk: Organization, Mission, and Information System View (NIST SP 800-39) is available online at http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-39/SP800-39-final.pdf.
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New Baldrige Book Helps Organizations Gain 20/20 Foresight
While most of us would say that hindsight is 20/20, the folks at the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program believe just the opposite for organizations that want to survive and thrive now, and for years to come. To share the keys to 20/20 foresight—the ability to establish a path for future success, track progress throughout the journey and adjust course as challenges arise—the Baldrige Program has published Baldrige 20/20: An Executive’s Guide to the Criteria for Performance Excellence.
The 132-page book showcases strategies, results and experiences from past winners of the Baldrige National Quality Award who have used the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence to achieve breakthrough performance, innovation and sustainability. It describes how the criteria have been used to foster organizational alignment and operational efficiency, achieve better financial results, satisfy and engage customers and workforce, and innovate and improve products and services. The organizations featured in the book represent a wide range of sectors, including small and large business, education, health care, local government and the military.
“Baldrige 20/20 was designed to inspire organizations to emulate these role models and hopefully, replicate their success,” says Harry Hertz, director of the Baldrige program. “We want this book to help organizations face the future with confidence, strategy and structure.”
A free Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) version of Baldrige 20/20 may be downloaded from the Baldrige program Web site at www.nist.gov/baldrige. A printed copy may be purchased for $13 from the American Society for Quality by requesting Item T1537 at (800) 248-1946 or http://asq.org/quality-press.
Media Contact: Michael E. Newman, firstname.lastname@example.org, (301) 975-3025
Three NIST Scientists Receive PECASE Honors
Three researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will receive the 2010 Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the White House announced on Monday, Sept. 26, 2011. PECASE is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent research careers. Winners receive up to a five-year research grant to further their study in support of critical government missions.
The scientists are recognized not only for their innovative research, but also their demonstrated commitment to community service.
For further information, see the Sept. 26, 2011, news announcement, “President Obama Honors Outstanding Early-Career Scientists” at www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/09/26/president-obama-honors-outstanding-early-career-scientists.
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