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Tech Beat - September 16, 2008

Tech Beat Archives

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Editor: Michael Baum
Date created: May 2, 2011
Date Modified: May 2, 2011 
Contact: inquiries@nist.gov

NIST Research Leads to Revisions in California Building Code

Virtual Cybernetic Building Test Bed

This Virtual Cybernetic Building Test Bed is used to test the automated fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) technology. The commercial building HVAC control equipment is linked to computer simulations of a building and the exterior environment, enabling controlled tests of various simulated building types, equipment faults, and weather conditions.

Credit: NIST
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In August, California revised its Title 24 Building Standards Code to incorporate use of the automated fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) technology developed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). FDD uses artificial intelligence rules and statistical analysis to find the location of mechanical problems in heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, be it valves, temperature sensors, dampers or coils, to improve the performance and energy efficiency of the system.

Buildings consume approximately 40 percent of all energy used in the United States—even more than transportation or industry. A substantial portion of that energy is used for HVAC to keep employees comfortable and computers cool. “Optimizing the way HVAC systems work will cut energy costs by improving efficiency,” explains Steven Bushby of NIST’s Building and Fire Research Laboratory.

The research began in a NIST lab equipped with an instrumented air-handling unit similar to ones seen on top of small office buildings and a set of variable-air-volume boxes that control air flow into offices. Engineers evaluated typical problems that occur in these systems—for example, what happens when a leaky valve is producing hot air during air-conditioning season. Later, they used a Virtual Cybernetic Building Test Bed at NIST to simulate what faults occur in different types of buildings under a variety of weather conditions. “This allowed us to evaluate which faults can be detected under certain weather conditions,” Bushby says.

Next, the fault detection technology was installed and tested in buildings. “In one high-rise building in California, the variable-air-volume boxes were so unreliable that one employee’s full-time job was to go throughout the building checking the condition of each variable-air-volume box, and when finished, to start all over again,” Bushby explains. With the FDD technology installed, building technicians know precisely which variable-air-volume box needs work when there is a HVAC problem.

The state of California funded part of the FDD research and after seeing its potential, added this automated fault detection and diagnostics tool to its strict building code. “With California taking this step, I believe more people will look at this technology and boost its potential in the marketplace,” Bushby says.

The air-handling units and variable-air-volume boxes are just two components of complex HVAC systems. Bushby and colleagues will continue to apply this FDD technology to other pieces of the system.


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

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Thirteen to Receive Baldrige Site Visits

Starting in mid-October, teams of business, education, health care and nonprofit experts will visit 13 organizations as the final review stage for the 2008 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s highest recognition for excellence. The organizations selected for site visits include one in the manufacturing category, two small businesses, six in health care, two in education, and two nonprofits. There were no organizations chosen for site visits in the service category.

The Baldrige program received 85 applications in 2008 (seven small business, five service, three manufacturing, 43 health care, 11 education and 16 nonprofits)—the highest number of applicants since 1992. The applicants were evaluated rigorously by an independent board of examiners in seven areas: leadership; strategic planning; customer and market focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce focus; process management; and results. Each organization receives a wealth of feedback detailing its most important strengths and opportunities for improvement.

The 2008 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 and is managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in cooperation with the private sector. The award 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, 72 organizations have received Baldrige Awards.

The Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence have played a valuable role in helping U.S. organizations improve. 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. Several million copies of the Criteria have been distributed since 1988, and wide-scale reproduction by organizations and electronic access add to that number significantly.

For more information on the Baldrige National Quality Program, see the program Web page at http://baldrige.nist.gov.

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

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NIST and Partners Identify Tiny Gold Clusters as Top-Notch Catalysts

For most of us, gold is only valuable if we possess it in large-sized pieces. However, the "bigger is better" rule isn't the case for those interested in exploiting gold's exceptional ability to catalyze a wide variety of chemical reactions, including the oxidation of poisonous carbon monoxide (CO) into harmless carbon dioxide at room temperatures. That process, if industrialized, could potentially improve the effectiveness of catalytic converters that clean automobile exhaust and breathing devices that protect miners and firefighters. For this purpose, nanoclusters—gold atoms bound together in crystals smaller than a strand of DNA—are the size most treasured.

Electron micrographs showing inactive (left) and active (right) catalysts

Electron micrographs showing inactive (left) and active (right) catalysts consisting of gold particles absorbed on iron oxide. The red circles indicate the presence of individual gold atoms. The yellow circles show the location of subnanometer gold clusters that can effectively catalyze the conversion of carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide. One nanometer is about half the width of a DNA molecule. (Color added for clarity)

Credit: Lehigh University Center for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology
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Using a pair of scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) instruments for which spherical aberration (a system fault yielding blurry images) is corrected, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Lehigh University (Bethlehem, Pa.) and Cardiff University (Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom) for the first time achieved state-of-the-art resolution of the active gold nanocrystals absorbed onto iron oxide surfaces. In fact, the resolution was sensitive enough to even visualize individual gold atoms.

The work is reported in the Sept. 5, 2008, issue of Science.

Surface science studies have suggested that there is a critical size range at which gold nanocrystals supported by iron oxide become highly active as catalysts for CO oxidation. However, the theory is based on research using idealized catalyst models made of gold absorbed on titanium oxide. The NIST/Lehigh/Cardiff aberration-corrected STEM imaging technique allows the researchers to study the real iron oxide catalyst systems as synthesized, identify all of the gold structures present in each sample, and then characterize which cluster sizes are most active in CO conversion.

The research team discovered that size matters a lot—samples ranged from those with little or no catalytic activity (less than 1 percent CO conversion) to others with nearly 100 percent efficiency. Their results revealed that the most active gold nanoclusters for CO conversion are bilayers approximately 0.5-0.8 nanometer in diameter (40 times smaller than the common cold virus) and containing about 10 gold atoms. This finding is consistent with the previous surface science studies done on the gold-titanium oxide models.

A.A. Herzing, C.J. Kiely, A.F. Carley, P. Landon and G.J. Hutchings. Identification of active gold nanoclusters on iron oxide supports for CO oxidation. Science, Vol. 321, Issue 5894, Sept. 5, 2008.

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

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NIST Seeks Suggestions for Future R&D Funding Areas

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is soliciting suggestions on areas of critical national and societal needs that could be addressed by transformative new technologies. The suggestions will be considered for incorporation in future competitions for cost-shared R&D funding under the NIST Technology Innovation Program (TIP).

Established under the 2007 America COMPETES Act, TIP promotes innovation in the United States through high-risk, high-reward research in areas of critical national need. The merit-based competitive program can fund cost-shared R&D projects by single small-sized or medium-sized businesses or by joint ventures that also may include institutions of higher education, nonprofit research organizations and national laboratories.

NIST is requesting that interested parties submit “white papers” that describe an area of critical national need and the associated societal challenge and explain how those needs might be addressed through potential technological developments that fit the TIP profile of high-risk, high-reward R&D. The white papers, along with the input from NIST, TIP Advisory Board, other government agencies, the technical communities and other stakeholders, will be incorporated into the TIP competition planning process.

The deadline for submission of white papers to TIP is Nov. 1, 2008. Detailed instructions on how to prepare and submit white papers may be found in “A Guide for Preparing and Submitting White Papers on Areas of Critical National Need.” The guide and additional information is available at *www.nist.gov/tip/call_for_white_papers.pdf or by calling 1-888-847-6478.

The 2008 TIP competition addressed technologies for inspecting, monitoring and evaluating critical components of the nation’s roadways, bridges, and drinking and wastewater systems. The white paper describing that area, “Advanced Sensing Technologies For The Infrastructure: Roads, Highways, Bridges And Water Systems,” is available at *www.nist.gov/tip/cnn_white_paperfinal.pdf. Additional information on TIP is available at www.nist.gov/tip.

*The Technology Innovation Program was cancelled in the fiscal year 2012 budget. All available TIP white papers are now located at www.nist.gov/tip/wp/index.cfm.

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

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Upgraded Vulnerability Database Enables Advances in Security Automation

Facilitating efforts to automate important computer security tasks, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has upgraded the National Vulnerability Database (NVD), a comprehensive repository of public information on potential vulnerabilities in computer systems. The upgrade centers on the NVD’s dictionary, which identifies names of products such as operating systems and applications.

The new version, known as NVD 2.2, conforms to a product-naming scheme known as the Common Platform Enumeration (CPE, http://cpe.mitre.org). With NVD 2.2, the official CPE dictionary of 15,500 products is now incorporated into the NVD data.

More than 80,000 updates to the NVD vulnerability data were made in preparation for this upgrade. The CPE standard enables the NVD product dictionary to achieve a new level of rigor and quality—and enables advances in security automation. In the earlier NVD product dictionary, data was usable only for human consumption because its structure was loosely defined. However, the new dictionary enables the data to be used for automated, machine-to-machine communications.

This update enables security tools and databases to correlate information with each other based on standardized product identifiers. For example, a database of network assets (which would list hardware and software as well as patches and service packs) can be correlated with a database of security vulnerabilities to identify what vulnerabilities might be present on instances of software. This is made possible because NVD links its large repository of vulnerability information to standard product names.

NVD data and CPE is used within the computer security specification known as the Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP), SCAP technology is used by initiatives of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). General Services Administration (GSA), and the Department of Defense. Thus, the NVD adoption of CPE and NIST’s maintenance of the CPE dictionary will promote standardization of product names throughout the federal government and into much of commercial industry.

NVD was developed by researchers in NIST’s Computer Security Division with support from the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cyber Security Division. NVD may be accessed at http://nvd.nist.gov.

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

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New Profile Lays Out Roadmap, Standards for Government Use of IPv6

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published version 1 of a standards profile to support government agencies as they implement Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6). IPv6 is the next-generation communication standard that defines how all data (text, voice and video) will move across the future Internet. Still under development, IPv6 will solve a looming problem—the exhaustion of the pool of available “addresses” for Internet-connected devices under the current protocol, IPv4.

NIST developed the profile to help ensure that IPv6-enabled federal information systems are interoperable, secure and able to coexist with the current IPv4 systems. Called A Profile for IPv6 in the U.S. Government – Version 1.0, 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 work securely with existing IPv4 systems.

NIST also posted a document entitled “USGv6 Version 1 Frequently Asked Questions” to answer commonly asked questions about the scope and purpose of the profile and how it relates to other profile and test efforts, including those of the Department of Defense and IPv6 Forum.

The publications are available at www.antd.nist.gov/usgv6/profile.html.

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

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NSF Physics Frontier Center Created at Joint Quantum Institute

The National Science Foundation has awarded the Joint Quantum Institute $12.5 million over five years to create and operate a Physics Frontier Center (PFC) at the University of Maryland (UMD) College Park campus. The Joint Quantum Institute is a collaborative venture between the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland. The JQI Physics Frontier Center will pursue cutting-edge investigations of coherence and entanglement—two fundamental elements of the physics of quantum information.

The co-directors of the PFC are JQI Fellows Bill Phillips of NIST and Luis Orozco of the University of Maryland. They are also members of the PFC Research Council, which includes JQI fellows Sankar Das Sarma (UMD), Chris Monroe (UMD) and Glenn Solomon (NIST).

There are nine other NSF PFCs in the United States, including one at JILA, a joint institute of NIST and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Selection criteria require each one to demonstrate “the potential for a profound advance in physics,” as well as “creative, substantive activities aimed at enhancing education, diversity, and public outreach [and] potential for broader impacts, e.g., impacts on other field(s) and benefits to society,” among other requirements.

More details about the JQI PFC can be found at www.jqi.umd.edu/pfchome.html.

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

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NIST Physicists are Finalists for Service to America Medals

Two physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have been named finalists for the 2008 Service to America Medals, presented by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service to celebrate excellence in federal civil service.

NIST Fellow Judah Levine is one of five finalists for the Career Achievement Medal, which will recognize “a federal employee for significant accomplishments throughout a lifetime of achievement in public service.” Levine has worked for three decades at NIST’s Boulder, Colo., campus in the Time and Frequency Division, helping create a system for synchronizing time that is used by financial markets and computer networks and accessed more than 2.5 billion times a day.

NIST scientist Joshua Pomeroy is one of four finalists for the Call to Service Medal, which will “recognize a federal employee whose professional achievements reflect the important contributions that a new generation brings to public service.” At NIST’s Gaithersburg campus, Pomeroy has employed highly charged ion beams to reduce the size of magnetic sensors used to read data on disk drives. The work promises further miniaturization in data storage.

Pomeroy and Levine are among the 29 finalists chosen from nearly 500 nominations submitted by federal agencies. The medal winners will be announced at an evening ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 16. More information on the medals and the finalist citations may be found at http://servicetoamericamedals.org/SAM/finalists08/.

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

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