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Tech Beat - February 5, 2008

Tech Beat Archives

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Editor: Michael Baum
Date created: March 5, 2012
Date Modified: March 5, 2012 
Contact: inquiries@nist.gov

President’s Budget Requests 22 Percent Boost for NIST Core Programs

A new NIST initiative is intended to develop tools for measuring the health, safety, and environmental impacts of nanomaterials. Shown here is a carbon nanotube on the hair of an ant's leg.
Credit: NIST
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President George W. Bush’s fiscal year (FY) 2009 budget proposal for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) includes $634 million for core research and facilities programs, a 22 percent increase (excluding congressionally directed grants) over the FY 2008 appropriations for these programs.

“This budget continues the Administration’s commitment to work toward a doubling of NIST’s core budget by 2016 as called for in the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) and authorized through 2010 by the America COMPETES Act,” said James M. Turner, acting director of NIST.

The total request of $638 million for NIST is divided into three appropriations:

  • Scientific and Technical Research and Services (STRS), $535 million—this category includes $526.5 million for NIST laboratory research and $8.5 million for the Baldrige National Quality Program.
  • Construction of Research Facilities (CRF), $99 million.
  • Industrial Technology Services (ITS), $4 million.

The proposed NIST research budget would add four new R&D initiatives: Nanotechnology: Environment, Health and Safety Measurements & Standards (+$12 million); Measurements and Standards to Accelerate Innovation in the Biosciences (+$10 million); Comprehensive National Cyber Security Initiative: Leap-Ahead Security Technologies (+$5 million) and Going at Light Speed: Optical Communications and Computing (+$5.8 million).

In addition, the request includes an additional $2 million for the ongoing expansion of the NIST Center for Neutron Research, plus $36.3 million for another nine initiatives previously described in the FY 2008 budget, including the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, and research programs on quantum information science, nanotechnology, measurements and standards for the climate change science, innovations in measurement science, disaster-resilient structures, hydrogen fuel, biometrics and manufacturing supply chain integration.

The research facilities budget includes construction initiatives that would fund a limited expansion of JILA, a joint institute of the University of Colorado and NIST,  adding 4,610 square meters (49,600 square feet) of new office and laboratory space (+$13 million), and completing laboratory renovations at NIST’s Boulder Colo. campus (+$43.5 million).

For full details of the NIST FY2009 budget request, see www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/budget_2009.htm.

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

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Shear Ingenuity: Tweaking the Conductivity of Nanotube Composites

One of the immediate applications of carbon nanotubes (CNT) is as an additive to polymers to create electrically conducting plastics—a relatively low CNT concentration can dramatically change the polymer‘s electrical conductivity by orders of magnitude, from an insulator to a conductor. New measurements by scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have uncovered an intriguing wrinkle. For a given CNT concentration, the electrical properties of the composite can be tuned from being a conductor to a non-conductor simply by changing processing conditions—basically how fast the polymer flows.

Confocal microscope image
Confocal microscope image of a carbon nanotube/polypropylene composite. Small concentrations of carbon nanotubes–here about one percent by mass–can change the electrical properties of the polymer dramatically.
Credit: NIST
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Carbon nanotubes—sheets of graphite rolled up into nanoscale hollow cylinders—are under intense scrutiny for a wide range of materials applications. The NIST study* shows how the conductivity and dielectric properties of these mixtures depend on flow and how they change once flow has stopped. These property changes have relevance to the process design of these materials in a long list of potential applications for conducting plastics including transparent electrodes, antennas, electronic packaging, sensors, automotive paint, anti-static fuel hoses and aircraft components.

The NIST researchers augmented a standard instrument, a shear rheometer, normally used for viscosity measurements, to simultaneously measure conductivity and dielectric properties Using this “rheo-dielectric spectrometer,” they discovered that the conductivity of the nanocomposite dramatically decreases with increasing flow rate, effectively changing the material from a conductor to an insulator. This extraordinary sensitivity of the conductivity (and other properties) to flow is prevalent near a characteristic CNT concentration where an interpenetrating CNT network first forms. Surprisingly, once the flow is removed, they found that the nanocomposite reverts back to its original conductivity.

Based on these measurements, the NIST team proposed a theoretical model that successfully accounts for these dramatic effects. This model quantitatively predicts the observed conductor-insulator transition and is useful for optimizing and controlling the properties of these new polymer-nanotube composites.

* J. Obrzut, J.F. Douglas, S.B. Kharchenko and K. B. Migler. Shear-induced conductor-insulator transition in melt-mixed polypropylene-carbon nanotube dispersions. Physical Review B 76, 195420-2007. Nov. 15, 2007.

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

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‘Nitty-Gritty’ but Vital Data Helps Field Rescue Robots

A new ASTM International standard for urban search and rescue robots and components tackles humble logistics problems that, left unsolved, could hamper the use of life-saving robots in major disasters. The advance, formally agreed to recently, is one result of a three-year National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) coordinated effort with first responders and robot manufacturers to develop urban search and rescue robot consensus standards. The new standard details specific ways to describe requirements for the storage, shipping and deployment of urban search and rescue robots.

Urban search and rescue robot and its control unit sit atop one of the packing crates stipulated in a new ASTM International standard designed to help first responders manage storage and transportation logistics.
Credit: NIST
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Sensor-laden robots, ranging from ball-shaped survey devices that can be thrown into disaster sites to radio-operated crawlers capable of exploring ruins and even rotary-winged aerial reconnaissance drones, are recognized as holding tremendous potential as additions to the responder’s toolkit. The new voluntary standard reflects a priority expressed in a series of NIST-coordinated workshops to accelerate the development and deployment of such urban search and rescue robots and components. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regional task force members and other first responders, technology developers and robot vendors said that access to standardized information concerning urban search and rescue robot logistics attributes would help response team managers integrate the devices into their operations.

A standard data form lists information relevant to robots that would be deployed for 10 days without re-supply for the first 72 hours. Seemingly mundane but essential information—the number and types of cases required for packing the robot and all associated components (such as sensors, tethers, operator control stations spare parts and specialized tools), for instance—should enable logistics managers to allocate appropriate warehouse space as well as transportation accommodations for shipment to and from the disaster site. Estimates on the time required to unpack, set up and repair units also will help potential users estimate a realistic time to deployment. Finally data on the actual weight of the robots and its components should allow users to plan how to transport the devices to the worksite from the base of operations.

Further information on NIST’s urban search and rescue robot performance standards project, which is sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate, can be found at www.isd.mel.nist.gov/US&R_Robot_Standards. Additional information on the new standard, ASTM E2592-07, “Standard Practice for Evaluating Cache Packaged Weight and Volume of Robots for Urban Search and Rescue,” can be found at www.astm.org.

Media Contact: John Blair, john.blair@nist.gov, 301-975-4261

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International Biofuels Effort Seeks Fewer Barriers, More Trade

On Feb. 1, 2008, the governments of the United States, Brazil and the European Union (EU)—the world’s major producers of biofuels—released an analysis of current biofuel specifications with the goal of facilitating expanded trade of these renewable energy sources. Spurred by increased market demands, this report was solicited by the U.S. and Brazilian governments and the European Commission (EC) on behalf of the EU, with the work conducted by an international group of fuel standards experts.

Biofuels—derived from biological materials such as plants, plant oils, animal fat and microbial byproducts—are gaining popularity worldwide as both energy producers and users seek ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, move away from dependence on fossil fuels and invigorate economies through increased use of agricultural products. As a result, biofuels are becoming an increasingly important commodity in the global marketplace.

One potential obstacle to achieving greater efficiency in the global biofuels market is confusion over differing—and sometimes conflicting—standards for characterizing the make-up and properties of biofuels. To clarify the current situation and identify potential roadblocks to improved compatibility, the U.S. and Brazilian governments and the EC convened a task force of experts from standards developing organizations (SDOs) to compare critical specifications in existing standards used globally (factors such as content, physical characteristics and contaminant levels that govern a fuel’s quality) for pure bioethanol and biodiesel, two key biofuels.

The “White Paper on Internationally Compatible Biofuels Standards” was produced by the joint task force after a six-month review process that considered thousands of pages of technical documents produced by the major SDOs of the United States, Brazil and the EC.

Recognizing that many of the issues relating to variations in specifications can be traced to different measurement procedures and methods, two leading metrology institutes—the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Brazil’s National Institute of Metrology, Standardization and Industrial Quality (Instituto Nacional de Metrologia, Normalização e Qualidade Industrial or INMETRO)—are collaborating on the development of joint measurement standards for bioethanol and biodiesel to complement the efforts of the SDOs. Initial efforts focus on creating certified reference materials to support development and testing of bioethanol and biodiesel, and analytical measurement methods for source identification (to determine if a fuel comes from a renewable or non-renewable source and the source of origin of biodiesel, e.g., soy, palm oil, animal fat, etc.) by the end of 2008.

For more information and access to the complete 94-page report, see “International Effort Takes Critical Steps to Accelerate Growth of Global Biofuels Market.”

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

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New Web Site Lists Validated Software Security Tools for Federal IT

A new Web site launched by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) can help federal information systems managers maintain the security of their systems by providing a list of software security tools that have been validated for correct performance.

In recent years, the U.S. government has significantly increased the security requirements for federal information systems. To make it easier for IT staff at federal agencies to maintain their systems’ security, NIST, in collaboration with the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the MITRE Corporation, recently introduced a technical framework called the Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP). SCAP provides technical specifications for identifying, enumerating, assigning and sharing security-related data. SCAP supports the automation of security operations in information systems, for the purpose of improving the operations’ efficiency and effectiveness. Software vendors have been developing SCAP-based tools, but how do government customers know that their tools are using SCAP correctly?

The new NIST web page lists software tools that have been validated by external testing labs as processing SCAP correctly. Listing validated SCAP tools is intended to make it easier for government agencies to take advantage of SCAP’s capabilities and to ensure compliance with federally mandated computer security standards. The NIST site will be updated regularly. It can be accessed at http://nvd.nist.gov/scapproducts.cfm.

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

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Workshop Offers U.S. Industry Access to International R&D Collaborations

Companies interested in participating in international advanced manufacturing research and development can learn about new collaboration opportunities offered by the Intelligent Manufacturing Systems (IMS) program at a special workshop hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on Feb. 26 in Gaithersburg, Md.

The IMS, an industry-led international research and development program, includes more than 300 companies and 200 research institutions from the European Union, Japan, Korea, Switzerland and the United States. The goal of IMS R&D efforts is to reduce participant research and development costs, to share risks, to create and expand international networks and markets, and to discover global solutions to manufacturing challenges.

The United States IMS region, hosted by NIST, is especially interested in increasing American participation in programs relevant to lifecycle sustainability, energy efficiency to reduce manufacturing cost and global warming impact, open manufacturing standards that enhance global innovation, key next-generation manufacturing technologies such as model-based enterprises, nanotechnology and smart materials, as well as education programs designed for information-based knowledge workers,.

Representatives of the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Commerce, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the European and Swiss IMS delegations, as well as Fortune 100 companies and major consortia are expected to participate in the meeting.

Due to space limitations, participation is limited. Prospective workshop attendees should contact Clarence Johnson at (301) 975-3562 or ceejay@nist.gov. For more information on the workshop see www.mel.nist.gov/ims/wkshop08.htm. Information on the Intelligent Manufacturing Systems initiative can be found at www.ims.org.

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

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Revised NIST IPv6 Profile Released for Comment

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released a second draft of a proposed standards profile to support the implementation of Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) by government agencies. IPv6 is the next-generation communication standard that defines how text, voice and video will move across the future Internet. IPv6 allows for substantially more “addresses” to identify each Internet-connected device in order to handle the ballooning number of computer devices in use.

NIST developed the “profile” to help ensure that IPv6-enabled federal information systems are interoperable, secure and able to co-exist with the current IPv4 systems. An initial draft of the NIST profile was released for comment one year ago (see “NIST Issues Draft IPv6 Technical Profile”).

The second draft of A Profile for IPv6 in the U.S. Government – Version 1.0 develops a long-term strategy for 2010 and beyond. It incorporates the feedback from meetings with industry and government groups and input including more than 500 comments. The profile recommends technical standards for common network devices, such as hosts, routers, firewalls and intrusion detection systems. It also outlines the compliance and testing programs that NIST will be establishing to ensure that IPv6-enabled federal information systems are interoperable and secure, and that they work with existing IPv4 systems.

NIST is calling for comments on the draft report by Feb. 29. For more information on the profile and to contribute comments, go to www.antd.nist.gov/usgv6.

On Feb. 19, NIST will hold a meeting at its Gaithersburg campus to discuss a program that it is developing that will test compliance with its IPv6 profile. For more information on the meeting, or to register, go to www.antd.nist.gov/usgv6/call_for_accreditors.html.

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

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