Take a sneak peek at the new NIST.gov and let us know what you think!
(Please note: some content may not be complete on the beta site.).

View the beta site
NIST logo

Tech Beat - May 29, 2012

Tech Beat Archives

Submit an email address to receive news from NIST:

Editor: Michael Baum
Date created: May 29, 2012
Date Modified: May 29, 2012 
Contact: inquiries@nist.gov

Federal Funding for Advanced Manufacturing Regional Partnerships

On Thursday, May 24, 2012, the Obama Administration announced a $26 million federal funding opportunity for the multiagency Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge. The National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP) is among several government agencies participating in the challenge, which will provide funding for regional partnerships dedicated to developing industry clusters in support of advanced manufacturing.

Through the challenge, applicant teams will submit one application to leverage multiple federal funding sources. This allows them to take a comprehensive approach to promoting advanced manufacturing activities and support the development of clusters, which are networks of interconnected firms and supporting institutions. The program’s goal is to foster job creation, increase public and private investments, and enhance economic prosperity.

Industry clusters emerge as a result of private enterprises taking advantage of a region’s assets and strengths in the business environment, and are often supported by economic development organizations, workforce development boards, business incubators or accelerators, chambers of commerce and university-based consortia.

The 2011 challenge provided $37 million for the advancement of 20 high-growth, regional industry clusters. This year’s challenge will provide funding to approximately 12 regional partnerships. The grants are competitive and the funding should encourage private investment in the regions from a number of sources such as foundations, financial institutions, corporations and other private-sector partners.

NIST MEP’s participation builds on previous collaborations, including the Jobs Accelerator in 2011 and the 2012 Rural Jobs Accelerator. NIST MEP is investing up to $1 million per year for up to three years without cost share, which will be awarded to participating MEP centers.

MEP centers provide a variety of activities that support the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs Accelerator. They help U.S. manufacturers by providing: market intelligence, industry trends, and data about advanced manufacturing to support planning and strategy development for regional clusters; outreach to existing manufacturing firms engaging in advanced manufacturing activities in the region to secure their involvement in cluster initiatives (particularly, but not necessarily limited to, small and medium-sized manufacturers); technical assistance such as innovation and growth services, technology acceleration, supplier development, sustainability, exporting, workforce and continuous improvement services to manufacturing companies engaging in advanced manufacturing activities in targeted clusters; and tracking performance measures, including jobs created/retained, sales increased or retained, cost savings, new sales, new investments, commercialization of products and/or parts using advanced manufacturing technologies, and adoption of advanced manufacturing processes by manufacturers.

On May 29, 2012, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erskine led a press call to explain the challenge. NIST”s Associate Director for Innovation and Industry, Phillip Singerman, participated in a question and answer session with representatives from some of the other participating agencies: the Economic Development Administration (EDA); the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO); the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employment and Training Administration (ETA); and the Small Business Administration (SBA). The National Science Foundation (NSF) also will participate in the challenge by providing additional financial support to existing Small Business Innovation Research grantees that are part of, or central to awarded projects.

An informational webinar for the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs Accelerator will be available for viewing at http://manufacturing.gov/accelerator/index.html approximately two weeks following the announcement of the federal funding opportunity.

See the announcement of federal funding at http://manufacturing.gov/accelerator/docs/advanced-manufacturing-ffo.pdf. General questions on the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs Accelerator should be emailed to mfgjobsaccelerator@eda.gov. Agency-specific questions should be directed to the applicable agency point of contact for EDA, NIST, DOE, DOL, or SBA. Applications for the challenge are due July 9, 2012.

To learn more about NIST MEP, visit http://www.nist.gov/mep.

Media Contact: Jennifer Huergo, jennifer.huergo@nist.gov, 301-975-6343

Comment  Comment on this article.back to top

New NIST SRM Supports the Fight Against Terrorist Bombings

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released a new standard reference material (SRM) to aid in the detection of two explosive compounds that are known to be used by terrorists. Researchers designed the new test samples to simulate the size and behavior of residues that remain after handling the explosives PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate) and TATP (triacetone triperoxide). Instrument developers, academic researchers and government labs can use the SRM to test, refine and validate their new detector designs.

SRM 2907
The new NIST reference material for explosive traces contains meticulously measured concentrations of the explosives TATP and PETN. The material can be used to test and validate the ability of machines and methods to detect the explosives' presence.
Credit: Talbott/NIST
View hi-resolution image

The new test samples are available from NIST as Standard Reference Material (SRM) 2907, "Trace Terrorist Explosives Simulants."

Fabricating and handling explosives leaves trace residues of the explosives on skin, clothes or other possessions. These residues are invisible to the naked eye and difficult to remove but may be detected by sensitive explosives detectors. Airport security personnel collect residues with handheld swipe wands. The swipes are then heated to vaporize the explosives, and the vapors analyzed in a tabletop detector. Current detectors typically use a technique called ion mobility mass spectrometry that can recognize specific ionized chemicals based on their chemical properties.

Both PETN and TATP are relatively difficult to detect in the field. The compounds were used in failed terrorist attacks by the "shoe bomber" in 2002 and the "underwear bomber" in 2009.

The new NIST reference material contains meticulously measured concentrations of these two explosives that can be used to test and validate the ability of machines and methods to detect the explosives' presence. The SRM is not itself explosive; it is formulated from inert particles coated with a trace amount of the two explosives.

NIST researchers certified the PETN and TATP content of the simulants using liquid chromatography with both ultraviolet absorbance and mass spectrometric detection. Analytical challenges included development of a new ionization-enhancing additive (for PETN) and a custom synthesized stable-isotope internal standard for the liquid chromatography mass spectrometer measurements of TATP. Details of the development of the materials and the analytical methods used were described in a 2011 paper in Analytical Chemistry.*

SRM 2907, Trace Terrorist Explosives Simulants, is the third SRM supporting the detection of trace explosives. Details, including pricing and distribution, are available at https://www-s.nist.gov/srmors/view_detail.cfm?srm=2907. The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate funded the production of the work presented in this material under HSHQDC-10-00297 with NIST.

Standard reference materials are among the most widely distributed and used products from NIST. The agency prepares, analyzes and distributes about 1,300 different materials used throughout the world to check the accuracy of instruments, validate test procedures, and serve as the basis for quality control standards worldwide.

* W. MacCrehan, S. Moore and D. Hancock. Development of SRM 2907 trace terrorist explosives simulants for the detection of semtex and triacetone triperoxide. Anal. Chem., 2011, 83 (23), pp 9054–9059. Oct. 17, 2011 DOI: 10.1021/ac201967m.

Media Contact: Mark Esser, mark.esser@nist.gov, 310-975-8735

Comment  Comment on this article.back to top

Report Details Efforts to Improve, Advance Indoor Microbial Sampling

Humans spend greater than 90 percent of their time indoors, but we're never alone there. Bacteria and viruses, scientists estimate, make up half of the world's biomass—some 10 nonillion (1 followed by 31 zeros) microorganisms—and we most often meet them within enclosed spaces. So, that's where the modern microbe hunter often looks first. A new report issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) offers guidance to make the hunting more effective.

microbe swabbing
A technician swabs for microbes on a mockup of the interior of the International Space Station at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This was done as part of a program to develop microbial sampling procedures for spaceflight.
Credit: Erin Mulholland and Lane Dellwo, NASA
View hi-resolution image

A fundamental understanding of the microbial community in the built environment—including estimates of diversity, function and concentration—is necessary to accurately assess human exposure, and in turn, the potential impacts on human health. To address the many challenges associated with characterizing this invisible biosphere, develop innovative approaches to make both aerosol and surface sampling more effective, and prioritize research efforts to optimize and standardize those methods, NIST, Yale University and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation held the "Challenges in Microbial Sampling in the Indoor Environment Workshop" on Feb. 14-15, 2011, at NIST headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md. The new report summarizes the results of that workshop.

Traditionally, taking a "census" of the microflora in an indoor environment has been done by taking samples from both the air and various surfaces, growing them in nutrient media, identifying the different species that arose, and then extrapolating an estimated total quantity for each species based on the numbers present in the culture. This approach provides a view of the microbial population that is limited, unreliable and biased toward those few species that grow successfully in culture.

In recent years, culture-based detection, identification and quantification is being replaced by culture-independent characterization of an entire microbial community by studying the different genomic DNA sequences present. Attendees at the indoor sampling workshop were charged with optimizing this modern genomic approach to microbial analysis by:

  • Detailing the current sample collection and processing procedures available to characterize the indoor microbiome;
  • Determining the future requirements for monitoring and characterizing microbe communities;
  • Defining the challenges and limitations with current methods;
  • Prioritizing issues that should be addressed to meet future requirements; and
  • Mapping the pathways and approaches that should be taken to develop and improve techniques to meet those needs.

The workshop summary report documents the results of these discussions, highlighting the current state of science, challenges and future priorities for surface and aerosol microbial analysis; exploring cross-cutting issues such as surface/aerosol microbiome relationships, education, training and public awareness; and providing a comprehensive overview of existing resources, including those for building and architectural considerations, sampling strategies, and worker safety and health guidelines.

NIST Technical Note (TN) 1737, Challenges in Microbial Sampling in the Indoor Environment—Workshop Summary Report, is available online at www.nist.gov/manuscript-publication-search.cfm?pub_id=910577.*

* The URL for TN 1737 was updated on May 31, 2012.

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

Comment  Comment on this article.back to top

Nationwide Adoption of NIST-Developed Test Predicted to Cut Death Toll Due to Cigarette-Caused Fires

In 2003, New York became the first state requiring cigarettes sold within its borders to pass a fire safety standard based on a test developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to reduce the risk of igniting upholstered furniture and bedding, a major cause of residential fires.

Examples of results of the Standard Test Method for Measuring the Ignition Strength of Cigarettes (ASTM E2187) are shown. Non-filter (top) and filter (left) cigarettes "failed," having burned the full length in the test. The cigarette that extinguished before burning its full length (right) passed. The test calls for performing 40 such determinations for each cigarette and reporting the number of full-length burns. Cigarettes are positioned on the standard ASTM E2187 test substrate.
Credit: NIST
View hi-resolution image

Last year, when Wyoming enacted a law similar to New York’s, a milestone with lifesaving consequences was achieved: all 50 states had made the Standard Test Method for Measuring the Ignition Strength of Cigarettes (ASTM E2187) a regulatory requirement.

A new study* projects that, with nationwide adoption, deaths due to fires ignited by cigarettes or other tobacco products will drop 30 percent below the total number of such fatalities in 2003, the last full year before the ASTM E2187 was first implemented in a state. The projected decrease translates into about 200 lives saved annually.

People age 50 and older may benefit the most from the state regulations, according to the National Fire Protection Association study. This age group constitutes only 31 percent of the U.S. population, but accounts for 77 percent of deaths due to residential fires caused by smoking materials.

A NIST team, sponsored by the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control and led by senior research scientist Richard Gann, studied how cigarettes ignite home furnishings and then developed the test method on which the fire-safety standard is based. In 2002, the private-sector standards organization ASTM International formally adopted the test as the recommended method for measuring the capability of a cigarette to continue burning and ignite bedding, upholstered furniture and related items. Gann now chairs the ASTM International Task Group that regularly reviews the standard with the aim of identifying potential improvement in light of recent research and market developments.

The path that led to the standard and its subsequent adoption across the United States spans 28 years, beginning when Congress passed the Cigarette Safety Act of 1984. The law mandated a thorough analysis of the feasibility of developing cigarettes with a reduced propensity to ignite furnishings. A technical committee led by Gann determined that a number of already-patented cigarette design features reduced the risk of ignition.

The committee also recommended developing a valid and reliable measurement method to determine that a cigarette is less prone to ignite a fire. Congress endorsed this recommendation in the Fire Safe Cigarette Act of 1990. Gann and his team developed two test approaches, but they eventually decided to promote their “cigarette extinction method” as a proposed standard.

Over the next decade, the NIST team subjected the test method to an extensive series of trials that involved testing laboratories throughout the United States and around the world. Results confirmed the test’s validity and eventually quieted the objections of critics. Momentum in the states picked up in 2006 with the formation of the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes, a national alliance of fire service organizations, consumer groups, disabled rights advocates, public health practitioners, and others. The coalition advocated for industry and state adoption of ASTM E2187.

Gann welcomes the progress achieved over the last decade, but says there’s more work to be done. “While U.S. deaths from cigarette-initiated fires are projected to be reduced by 30 percent, cigarettes will continue to be the largest cause of U.S. fire deaths,” he notes.

Benefits of the standard are being reaped internationally. Canada, Australia and Finland already have adopted ASTM E2187. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has approved a version of the ASTM standard, as prepared by a committee chaired by Gann. This standard (ISO 12863) has been adopted by the European Union.

* J.R. Hall, Jr., “The Smoking-Material Problem,” National Fire Protection Association, March 2012. Download PDF: http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/PDF/OS.Smoking.pdf.

Media Contact: Mark Bello, mark.bello@nist.gov, 301-975-3776

Comment  Comment on this article.back to top

NIST Special Publication Helps to Demystify Cloud Computing

For a clear view of cloud computing, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has issued a new publication that explains cloud systems in plain language.

The final version of Cloud Computing Synopsis and Recommendations (Special Publication 800-146) is NIST's general guide to cloud computing. It explains cloud systems in plain language and provides recommendations for information technology decision makers, including chief information officers, information systems developers, system and network administrators, information system security officers and systems owners.

NIST defines cloud computing as a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources—for example, networks, servers, storage, applications and services—that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

Cloud computing is a rapidly developing area with many strengths and some weaknesses. Each organization has to determine which set of cloud technologies and configurations will meet its requirements. Cloud Computing Synopsis and Recommendations explains how clouds are deployed, what kind of services are available, the economic considerations, the technical characteristics such as performance and reliability, typical terms of service, and security issues. It also offers recommendations on how and when cloud computing is an appropriate tool, and indicates the limits of current knowledge and areas for future research and analysis.

"NIST has provided valuable leadership in defining cloud computing and in characterizing its various opportunities and challenges," said Jim Reavis, executive director, Cloud Security Alliance. "Our organization and indeed the global consumers of cloud computing eagerly anticipate this and future publications from NIST on cloud computing."

Cloud Computing Synopsis and Recommendations (SP 800-146) is available at http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/PubsSPs.html#800-146. A pdf may be downloaded from www.nist.gov/manuscript-publication-search.cfm?pub_id=911075.

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

Comment  Comment on this article.back to top

New Cybersecurity Center Kicks Off with Workshop

The National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) will host a kickoff workshop on Tuesday, June 26, 2012. The workshop’s goal is to introduce the center, which will bring together experts from industry, government and academia to develop practical, interoperable cybersecurity approaches that address the real-world needs of complex IT systems. The center is a partnership between the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the State of Maryland and Montgomery County.

The center is a public-private partnership designed to accelerate the widespread adoption of integrated cybersecurity tools and technologies. Workshop attendees will learn about the center’s public-private structure and how they can participate. They will have the chance to provide input on possible “use case” analyses that are expected to form a central focus of the center’s collaborative efforts.

Use cases are a standard tool of software engineers used to define specific function requirements of a system from the point of view of a user trying to accomplish a specific task. The use cases developed by NCCoE will incorporate the IT security needs of specific communities or sectors. Examples of candidate sectors include health care, finance and utilities. The use case selection process will include input from the users and vendors of security technologies, as well as government agencies, academia and others.

At the workshop, a series of panels will explain different aspects of the center, including how use communities will form and how they will translate their needs into security requirements for the center; what constitutes a use case and how it will capture a community’s needs and communicate pertinent information; how industry and others can participate and the nature of the center’s output; and more.

The workshop will be held at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, Md., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information and to register for the workshop, visit www.nist.gov/itl/csd/nccoe-workshop.cfm. Registration closes at 5 p.m. EST on June 20.

For more information on the NCCoE, visit http://csrc.nist.gov/nccoe. For technical questions on the center or workshop, contact Matthew Scholl, matthew.scholl@nist.gov, (301) 975-2941.

Media Contact: Jennifer Huergo, jennifer.huergo@nist.gov, 301-975-6343

Comment  Comment on this article.back to top

Improving Safety Measures and Measures of Safety for World Metrology Day 2012

World Metrology Day celebrates the signing of the Treaty of the Meter on May 20, 1875.* By signing the treaty, representatives from 17 nations, including the United States, recognized the importance of worldwide uniformity of measurements and established a collaborative global framework for the advancement of measurement science. Each year, World Metrology Day is organized and celebrated jointly by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), which serves as the hub of national metrology institutes such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the International Organization of Legal Metrology (OIML), an intergovernmental treaty organization that promotes harmony in legal metrology.

Kate Remley
Measurements to help safeguard first responders: NIST engineer Kate Remley holds two Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) devices with wireless alarm capability.
Copyright: Paul Trantow/Altitude Arts
View hi-resolution image

The theme of this year’s celebration is “Metrology for Safety.” Measurement plays a key role in ensuring that products—e.g. cars, paints, food and medicines—and processes such as medical procedures, are safe. As the U.S. national metrology institute, NIST creates standard reference materials, improves measurement tools, develops performance metrics and advances metrology so that the nation has the best safety measures and measures of safety.

The range of NIST’s measurement work devoted to safety is vast. As manufactured nanoparticles become increasingly prevalent, NIST is developing the measurement technology to evaluate their impact on the environment and human health.

At the same time, NIST is also developing the measurement tools needed to unlock the therapeutic potential of nanostructured materials.

At the level of things we can see, NIST concrete, sensing and engineering research is helping to improve the safety of our roads, bridges and buildings.

NIST standards are used to calibrate millions of medical machines such as MRIs, PETs, CATs and X-rays to make sure patients are getting the proper exposure, no more and no less. NIST scientists are also looking at ways of increasing the sensitivity and accuracy of these machines.

In the area of public safety and security, NIST provides law enforcement, first responders and the military with standards, research and testing protocols to support a host of technologies that will make their jobs easier and safer and enable them to protect others more effectively. NIST research into robotics, radio communications, electronic translation, radar, explosive and chemical detection, and body armor will help to make everyone safer.

Fire research at NIST is comprehensive, including fire retardants, firefighting equipment and strategies, fire behavior, fire detection and fire investigation.

NIST’s tests of crash avoidance systems and metallurgical and metal forming studies will help to make cars—and their drivers—safer on the road.

NIST cybersecurity and cryptography efforts are vital to protecting data and securing communications in the United States and around the world. NIST administers the Secure Hash Algorithm competition; maintains the National Vulnerability Database; regulates computer security and information processing standards for the civilian federal government through a number of programs, including FISMA and FIPS; and works with industry to establish a National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC). Along with these conventional approaches, NIST is also a world leader in the development of adapting the strangeness of the quantum world to computer and communications security.

This is just a small sample of the kind of work that NIST and national metrology institutes around the world perform to make measureable improvements in safety and security.

NIST will be celebrating World Metrology Day on May 21, 2012, with a colloquium highlighting these and other NIST programs dedicated to creating a safer world. This World Metrology Day, we ask that you take a moment to reflect on how important accurate measurement is to your life and our civilized, industrial society. After all, without accurate measurement, we wouldn’t be able to say how far we’ve come.

We hope you have a safe and happy World Metrology Day.

* Originally posted on May 17, 2012.

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

back to top

Intel Executive Joins NIST Advisory Committee

Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Director Patrick Gallagher has selected William M. Holt, senior vice president and general manager of Intel Corporation's Technology and Manufacturing Group, to serve on the Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology (VCAT). Holt will serve a three-year term on the committee, the agency's primary private-sector policy advisory group.

William M. Holt
William M. Holt

At Intel, Holt is responsible for research and development in the areas of wafer process, package assembly and test, and computer-aided design (CAD) tools. He also is responsible for corporate quality assurance and manufacturing equipment development.

Holt began his Intel career in dynamic-random access memory (DRAM) development in 1974, working as a development engineer and then manager. He was involved in product and test engineering, circuit design and CAD tool development, and later assumed responsibility for the definition of design rules, devices and test chips for logic technologies.

In 1999, Holt became co-director of Intel’s Logic Technology Development organization, which is responsible for the research, definition and development of new generations of logic technologies, advanced circuit design, advanced patterning, test technology and process and circuit simulation tools.

He has been the general manager of the Technology Manufacturing Group since 2005 and was promoted to senior vice president in 2006.

Holt received his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1974 from the University of Illinois and his master's in electrical engineering from the University of Santa Clara in 1979. Holt received the University of Illinois Electrical and Computer Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award in 2007 for technical contribution to development of Intel technologies and leadership in the microelectronics industry.

The VCAT was established by Congress in 1988 to review and make recommendations on NIST’s policies, organization, budget and programs. The next VCAT meeting will be June 19-20, 2012, in Gaithersburg, Md. For more information on VCAT and the meeting, visit http://www.nist.gov/director/vcat/.

Media Contact: Jennifer Huergo, jennifer.huergo@nist.gov, 301-975-6343

Comment  Comment on this article.back to top

NIST Earns Honor for Work Supporting Information Exchange Across Supply Chains

The Open Application Integration Group (OAGi), a U.S.-based, nonprofit consortium, has recognized the Systems Integration Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as an “outstanding contributor” organization. The award acknowledges the division’s role in accelerating the development and adoption of OAGi standards for communicating among industrial suppliers and service providers and their customers.

OAGi develops standards that enable hassle-free exchanges of information and applications across global supply chains. Called BODs, for business object documents, the consortium’s standards are now used by more than 3,500 businesses and other organizations in nearly 90 countries.

Over the 11 years that the division, part of NIST’s Engineering Laboratory, has been an OAGi member, agency researchers have devised automated methods and testing tools for evaluating prototype software implementations of BOD standards. NIST's evaluations have flagged errors in premarket versions of standards and applications, improving the quality of the resulting commercial software and saving vendors and users time and money.

In the early 2000s, NIST played a key technical role in a proof-of-concept project that demonstrated the usefulness of OAGi BODs in automotive supply chains. These supply chains include not only original equipment manufacturers and their parts and materials suppliers but also transporters, warehouses, retailers, and even customers. Today, according to the consortium, OAGi’s standards are used by businesses in 38 industries, including agriculture, chemical processing, metal working and various high-technology sectors.

“Integration and data quality problems impede efficient product development and manufacture and impose significant costs in time and money on American industry,” explains Simon Frechette, leader of NIST’s Information Modeling and Testing Group within the Engineering Laboratory.

In ongoing work, the NIST-OAGi collaboration is developing new standards intended to make it easier for American small and medium-sized manufacturers to communicate their manufacturing capabilities electronically.

“That first electronic handshake is very important,” says Frechette. “Understanding how your customer communicates digital manufacturing data is a critical first step in any supply chain relationship.”

Frechette and his colleagues received the award at the OAGi’s annual meeting, hosted at NIST on April 25, 2012.

Media Contact: Mark Bello, mark.bello@nist.gov, 301-975-3776

Comment  Comment on this article.back to top