PML at Work
Highlights of Science and Services
Unprecedented Measurements for Spintronic Components
Calibrating flow meters used on the nation's 300,000 miles of pipelines is a complex, demanding, multi-stage process that begins with apertures 0.2 inches in diameter and ends with 30-inch pipes at 1000 psi.
Sam Benz and colleagues are about to begin delivery of a highly automated, programmable Josephson voltage standard that does not require an expert physicist to operate -- and thus can be used in a wide variety of labs around the globe.
Surprise Findings About Single-Photon Quantum Emitters
Seeing the Oceans in Their True Colors
Analyzing performance and assessing uncertainties in the world's principal instrument for calibration of ocean-color measurements by orbiting satellites is a long, complicated, and evolving job.
PML leads the way in ensuring that SEM users have the ability to gather contamination-free measurements.
MRI: Contrast Agents of Change
Magnetic resonance imaging may soon offer extraordinary new diagnostic and observational possibilities. Recent experiments with magnetic contrast agents hold the promise of real-time imaging of multiple cell types and physiological phenomena simultaneously.
Calibrating a 32,500 pound nuclear waste container to an uncertainty of 0.1 pounds is a highly complicated process that begins with the primary national standard kilogram and works its way up through many orders of magnitude.
Scientists at PML's Quantum Electronics and Photonics Division have devised and improved a novel single-photon detector with 93% system detection efficiency, using an unconventional superconductor for the device's grid of nanowires.
PML’s Semiconductor and Dimensional Metrology Division is finding new ways to support the booming petroleum industry in the area of thread gauge calibrations.
Researchers have demonstrated a novel chip-scale instrument made of carbon nanotubes that may simplify absolute measurements of laser power.
PML's Marlin Kraft was recently asked to troubleshoot DC current measurement problems for a major instrument manufacturer.
Researchers from PML, the NIST Center for Neutron Research, and NIST’s glass/optical shop have devised an innovative, improved spin-polarization filter
Having blood drawn and analyzed to diagnose disease is a process that can take a few days, but what if your doctor could perform this analysis in moments, right before your eyes? That's the promise of "lab on a chip" technology, and researchers are working on a variety of fronts to remove technical roadblocks.
JILA Physicists Achieve Elusive 'Evaporative Cooling' of Molecules
Achieving a goal considered nearly impossible, JILA physicists have chilled a gas of molecules to very low temperatures by adapting the familiar process by which a hot cup of coffee cools.
'Standard Quantum Limit' Smashed, Could Mean Better Fiber-Optic Comms
Communicating with light may soon get a lot easier, hints recent research* from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland's Joint Quantum Institute (JQI), where scientists have potentially found a way to overcome a longstanding barrier to cleaner signals
Bringing Calorimetry to CT Dose Assessment
A team has shown that determining absorbed dose by measuring the temperature change it prompts in plastic phantoms is a valuable complement to the conventional method -- and might eventually come to serve as a primary standard.
A group of researchers from PML's Sensor Science Division is part of a project that will have a direct effect on improved safety of the nation's drinking water.
A new analysis of how PML's online Atomic Spectra Database (ASD) is being used turns up some surprising patterns and preferences. The information will help improve the utility of the reference used worldwide.
Researchers in the Semiconductor and Dimensional Metrology Division's Nanoelectronic Device Metrology (NEDM) Project have demonstrated a phenomenon that could be important in the burgeoning field of spintronics.
Recent experiments suggest that predictions based on the fundamental theory of electromagnetism may not accurately account for the behavior of atoms in exotic, highly charged states.
JILA's new X-Wing addition has received two construction industry awards—best project in higher education/research and special judges' recognition—from the Engineering News-Record, a trade magazine.
Scientists from a PML-Joint Quantum Institute group have devised and demonstrated a novel method for making the most precise measurements to date of the properties of two atomic transitions in rubidium.
Igor Vayshenker of PML's Quantum Electronics and Photonics Division recently completed his 1000th calibration folder for optical power meters.
A team in PML's Quantum Measurement Division is developing a method to grow 99.99 % pure Si-28 crystal to satisfy the needs of the quantum information community at relatively low cost.
NIST might soon be able to provide metrology support for a new generation of photonic temperature sensors with numerous potential benefits over the standard platinum resistance thermometer, including cost and ease of calibration.
The Acoustics Team in PML's Semiconductor and Dimensional Metrology Division have reinstated an agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs to characterize hearing aids.
Deborah Jin Chosen for 2013 Women in Science Award
Jin, a NIST physicist who works at JILA, will receive the L’Oreal-UNESCO award and $100,000 at a ceremony in Paris next March.
PML tracked, for the first time, the step-by-step motion of a standard type of MEMS device called a "scratch drive actuator."
Collaboration Puts Wheels on the Quantum Bus
In collaboration with Princeton, PML has shown how a major hurdle in transferring information from one quantum bit to another might be overcome.
PML Physicist David Wineland Wins 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics
Wineland, of the Time and Frequency Division, is the fourth PML Nobel laureate in the past 15 years. The composite image at right shows an enlarged photo of an ion trap in the background.
After months of construction, installation, troubleshooting, and testing, the new clean room at NIST's Precision Measurement Laboratory complex on the Boulder campus is now fully operational.
Scientists have created the first controllable atomic circuit that functions analogously to a superconducting quantum interference device and allows operators to select a particular quantum state of the system at will.
A multidisciplinary team has devised and demonstrated a pulsed x-ray source intended to reveal atomic-scale activity with picosecond resolution during chemical reactions.
Researchers in PML's Semiconductor and Dimensional Metrology Division are at work developing new instrumentation and procedures to calibrate a new set of length standards for fiber optic cables.
PML-Columbia University collaboration devises a sequencing technique that is potentially low-cost but accurate and reliable.
A PML team is developing a novel device that can serve as the world’s first portable, quantum-based primary barometric pressure standard. The ultra-precise optical interferometer cavity design will also provide a new method of realizing and disseminating temperature and length.
A trusted source of truly random numbers could dramatically improve the security of on-line transactions and databanks. NIST scientists have set out to make such a source, and intend to broadcast its output via a “random number beacon” on the Internet for all to use.
PML researchers played a central role in the establishment of new testing and evaluation standards for radiation and nuclear detectors about to be adopted by 22 federal agencies.
How researchers are expanding the capabilities of near-field scanning microwave microscopy – a technique that reveals aspects of the composition and physics of nanoscale materials and devices at extremely high resolution.
PML scientists are making innovations in terahertz spectroscopy, a newly emergent field that employs frequencies between microwaves and infrared radiation to investigate the structure and behavior of biosystems.
NIST Physicist Jacob Taylor received a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal (Sammies) for his advanced scientific research, which has potential for advances in health care, communications, computing, and technology. The award was presented on September 13, 2012, by Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank.
Scientists have devised and tested the world's most stable laser, with a frequency variation of no more than 2 parts in 10,000 trillion.
PML researchers have devised a novel source of portable sunlight that may fill an urgent need in renewable energy research.
PML played an important role in the calibration of the Mars rover's temperature sensors. These small, but critically important sensors monitor the rover's power generator.
PML has devised an alternative system for direct comparison of a reference mass in vacuum to an unknown mass artifact in air, using magnetic levitation.
PML researchers have determined the work function and band alignment of a graphene-insulator-semiconductor structure by combining internal photomeission and spectroscopic ellipsometry.
PML researchers devise a novel method of amplifying weak light signals without adding noise while also carrying more information than other low-noise amplifiers, with potential benefits to optical communications, quantum information processing, and biological and astronomical imaging.
NIST's Speedy Ions Could Add Zip to Quantum Computers
Scientists in PML's Time & Frequency Division have demonstrated that they can accelerate beryllium ions from zero to 100 miles per hour and stop them in just a few microseconds. The physics of this behavior may prove useful in future quantum computers.
Making a Tough Case: NIST Cartridge Standard Helps Tie Guns to Criminals
NIST researchers have produced an important new tool for crime labs -- a Standard Reference Material cartridge case to complement the standard bullet -- that can bring a new level of accuracy to investigations and stronger evidence to prosecutors. And now they are developing advanced technologies and techniques for further progress.
The mechanism behind the critical phase transition in high-temperature superconductors is still uncertain more than a quarter of a century after the materials were discovered. A new experiment which applies controllable disorder to a quantum simulation provides important insight into the physics of the transition.
Over the past two decades, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) have become ubiquitous, with applications in cell phones, ink-jet printers, accelerometers, and scores of other devices. But there have been no industry-wide standards for characterizing features. So PML researchers have developed two new Reference Materials that enable accurate microscale measurements in MEMS devices.
First responders rely increasingly on wireless communication devices, and in emergencies they cannot afford major signal loss or delay caused by attenuation, interference, or reflection. Now PML's Metrology for Wireless Systems Project has devised testing methods and standards for this essential equipment used by firefighters and other public-safety personnel.
PML has expanded the capacity of its next-generation laser power meter to handle inputs up to 100 kilowatts -- ten times more powerful than beams that slice easily through carbon steel. Meter improvements and calibration standards are urgently sought by the U.S. laser industry.
NIST is taking a huge step into the vanishingly small with the Precision Imaging Facility (PIF) now being outfitted in new Precision Measurement Laboratory on the Boulder campus. The Laboratory will house four world-class imaging instruments.
PML has developed a new humidity generator for industrial calibrations that extends the range of dew-point measurements up to 98 °C – a 25% improvement over the current limit.
Until recently, getting direct NIST traceability for vacuum gauges has been a time-consuming and relatively expensive process. Now, however, even small businesses and labs can take advantage of a new, fully automated calibration system devised by PML.
PML played a major role in NIST’s contributions to the Science and Engineering Festival in Washington DC in April. The annual event promotes science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) by providing students with an up-close look at a wide variety of interactive exhibits.
Space may be the final frontier. But often a few trips to PML are necessary before things can get off the ground. Such is the case with NASA's Extreme Ultraviolet Monitor, which will soon head to Mars to examine the depletion of the planet's once-dense atmosphere.
The U.S. petroleum industry relies on volume measurements traceable to NIST, specifically to the Flow Metrology Group in PML's Sensor Science Division, to ensure maximum accuracy.
First, Fast, and Faster
Micromechanical Mirror Performs Under Pressure...Of Light
In the pursuit of precision measurements, nothing is simple, even when the apparatus employed appears to be utterly uncomplicated. An instructive case in point is the new ionization chamber used to determine the U.S. primary standard for air kerma, the amount of kinetic energy released per unit mass of air by ionizing radiation.
Clinicians who treat severe wounds may soon have powerful new diagnostic tools in the form of hyperspectral imaging (HSI) devices, calibrated to new NIST standard reference spectra, which will provide unprecedented perspective on the physiology of tissue injury and healing.
The reliability of trapped-ion quantum information systems – a promising candidate technology for an eventual quantum computer – can be dramatically improved by giving the trap electrodes a good scrub. That’s the conclusion of PML researchers who found that cleaning the electrode surfaces of a room-temperature, gold-film trap with a beam of argon ions produced a 100-fold decrease in thermal jitter of the trapped ions.
During the week of February 6-10, 2012, some extremely weighty matters were in progress at NIST’s non-magnetic facility, where PML researchers hosted an international gravimeter shoot-out with potentially momentous consequences for the impending redefinition of the kilogram.
Laying the Groundwork for 3D Stacked Integrated Circuits
Could three-dimensional stacked integrated circuits (3DS-ICs) be the next big innovation in technology development? Richard Allen of PML's Semiconductor and Dimensional Metrology Division has already played a role in the development of five separate SEMI standards related to 3DS-ICs.
For climatologists and environmental policy makers who need to determine the flux of greenhouse gases, there are three paramount questions: Where is it, how much is there, and how is it moving? PML is testing a new measurement approach that may provide answers of unprecedented accuracy to all three. Read more...
Much of what is known about decadal climate change comes from satellite-based remote sensing of microwave radiation at different levels in the Earth's atmosphere. Yet, at present, there is no accepted brightness-temperature (radiance) standard for microwaves that can be used for calibration. Read more...
A free, easily customizable software program for automating test equipment may sound too good to be true, especially for smaller companies, graduate students, and hobbyists or for day-to-day laboratory work. But that's exactly what the PML's Semiconductor and Dimensional Metrology Division has created. Read more...
Sometime soon, microchip fabricators will take the next major step in the relentless reduction of feature size, from the current minimum of 22 nm down to 10 nm and perhaps even smaller. Getting there, however, will entail much more than incremental progress. Read more...
PML Researchers Create Tool for Circuit Aware Reliability Specs
A PML research team has devised a reliability data transformation methodology that could ease one of the semiconductor industry's most vexing problems: reliability qualification. Read more...
PML researchers are growing GaN nanowires with near-perfect crystalline structure using MBE. Potential uses abound, from new light-emitting diodes and diode lasers to ultra-small resonators, chemical sensors, and highly sensitive atomic probe tips. Read more...
The American Physical Society (APS) has named the location of a 1956 breakthrough by NBS scientists -- now on the campus of the University of the District of Columbia -- as an "historic site." Read more...
Until now, it has not been possible to accurately determine the number of photons in a pulse of light if the photon number exceeds about 50. PML researchers devised a method of extending the count to 1000 with extremely low uncertainty. Read more...
The international General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) has approved a plan to redefine four of the seven base units of the International System of Units (SI) in terms of fixed values of natural constants. Read more...
When an interagency team was putting together the next addition to the Earth Observing System satellite fleet, they called in experts from PML's SIRCUS facility to calibrate critical sensors. The results dramatically reduced uncertainties and opened new areas of research. Read more...
The nations of North, Central, and South America share the world's first continuous, near-real-time international time network, thanks in large measure to Mike Lombardi of the Time and Frequency Division, winner of this year's Wildhack Award from the NCSLI. Read more...
Researchers are learning how to control the growth of sizable, high-quality graphene sheets using a promising method: cooking wafers of silicon carbide until the silicon sublimates, leaving behind layers of the celebrity carbon allotrope. Read more...
Tens of millions of clocks are controlled by NIST's venerable AM radio station, WWVB in Ft. Collins, Colorado. But in parts of the United States, distance from the source and radio frequency interference are making it hard to get a clear, strong signal. Read more...
When PML researchers set out to make measurements of unprecedented precision in two isotopes of lithium, they uncovered an unexpected effect that explains why data from different experiments on the same transitions have differed so drastically. Read more...
A quantum dot made by a group in Boulder has helped an international team of researchers "see" a quantum-mechanical process without disturbing it—an achievement long considered impossible, and one that made headlines worldwide. Read more...
The Hyperspectral Image Projector (HIP), now in development in the Sensor Science Division, will make possible high-quality, standardized evaluation of the performance of future optical and infrared imaging instruments by projecting realistic scenes into their sensors. Read more...
PML Workshop Leads to Safer Flow Calibrations
NIST PML hosted a workshop on turbine meters and hydrocarbon liquid flow measurement to promote the replacement of toxic and flammable calibration liquids with benign ones; discuss the effects of liquid properties on the performance of turbine meters; and report the results of a comparison between 12 labs in the DoD and private industry. Read more...