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Tech Beat - May 10, 2011

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Editor: Michael Baum
Date created: May 10, 2011
Date Modified: May 10, 2011 
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Silver Cycle: New Evidence for Natural Synthesis of Silver Nanoparticles

Nanoparticles of silver are being found increasingly in the environment—and in environmental science laboratories. Because they have a variety of useful properties, especially as antibacterial and antifungal agents, silver nanoparticles increasingly are being used in a wide variety of industrial and consumer products. This, in turn, has raised concerns about what happens to them once released into the environment. Now a new research paper* adds an additional wrinkle: Nature may be making silver nanoparticles on its own.

AFM image TEM image
AFM (Atomic force microscopy) image of silver nanoparticles formed from silver ions in solution with humic acid. Color tone in this image indicates height (0 to 10 nanometers) above the base plane, so brighter spots are taller, larger nanoparticles. Image is roughly 1,700 nm on a side.
Credit: MacCuspie, NIST
View hi-resolution image
Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) image of silver nanoparticles formed from silver ions in solution with humic acid. The acid tends to coat the nano particles (visible here as a pale cloud), keeping them in a colloidal suspension instead of clumping together. (Color added for clarity.)
Credit: SUNY, Buffalo
View hi-resolution image

A team of researchers from the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), the State University of New York (SUNY), Buffalo, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) reports that, given a source of silver ions, naturally occurring humic acid will synthesize stable silver nanoparticles.

“Our colleague, Virender Sharma, had read an article in which they were using wine to form nanoparticles. He thought that, based on the similar chemistry, we should be able to produce silver nanoparticles with humic acids,” explains FIT chemist Mary Sohn. “First we formed them by traditional methods and then we tried one of our river sediment humic acids. We were really excited that we could see the characteristic yellow color of the nanoparticles.” Samples were sent to Sarbajit Banerjee at SUNY Buffalo and Robert MacCuspie at NIST for detailed analyses to confirm the presence of silver nanoparticles.

“Humic acid” is a complex mixture of many organic acids that are formed during the decay of dead organic matter. Although the exact composition varies from place to place and season to season, humic acid is ubiquitous in the environment. Metallic nanoparticles, MacCuspie explains, have characteristic colors that are a direct consequence of their size.** Silver nanoparticles appear a yellowish brown.

The team mixed silver ions with humic acid from a variety of sources at different temperatures and concentrations and found that acids from river water or sediments would form detectable silver nanoparticles at room temperature in as little as two to four days. Moreover, MacCuspie says, the humic acid appears to stabilize the nanoparticles by coating them and preventing the nanoparticles from clumping together into a larger mass of silver. “We believe it’s actually a similar process to how nanoparticles are synthesized in the laboratory,” he says, except that the lab process typically uses citric acid at elevated temperatures.

“This caught us by surprise because a lot of our work is focused on how silver nanoparticles may dissolve when they’re released into the environment and release silver ions,” MacCuspie says. Many biologists believe the toxicity of silver nanoparticles, the reason for their use as an antibacterial or antifungal agent, is due to their high surface area that makes them an efficient source of silver ions, he says, but “this creates the idea that there may be some sort of natural cycle returning some of the ions to nanoparticles.” It also helps explain the discovery, over the past few years, of silver nanoparticles in locations like old mining regions that are not likely to have been exposed to man-made nanoparticles, but would have significant concentrations of silver ions.

* N. Akaighe, R.I. MacCuspie, D.A. Navarro, D.S. Aga, S. Banerjee, M. Sohn and V.K. Sharma. Humic acid-induced silver nanoparticle formation under environmentally relevant conditions. Environmental Science & Technology, Published online Apr. 1, 2011. dx.doi.org/10.1021/es103946g.
** The effect is called “surface plasmon resonance” and is caused by surface electrons across the nanoparticle oscillating in concert.

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

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Silver Cycle: New Evidence for Natural Synthesis of Silver Nanoparticles Test 5

Test line 5 on 3/17/2013 10:54 PM by yyao.

Nanoparticles of silver are being found increasingly in the environment—and in environmental science laboratories. Because they have a variety of useful properties, especially as antibacterial and antifungal agents, silver nanoparticles increasingly are being used in a wide variety of industrial and consumer products. This, in turn, has raised concerns about what happens to them once released into the environment. Now a new research paper* adds an additional wrinkle: Nature may be making silver nanoparticles on its own.

AFM image TEM image
AFM (Atomic force microscopy) image of silver nanoparticles formed from silver ions in solution with humic acid. Color tone in this image indicates height (0 to 10 nanometers) above the base plane, so brighter spots are taller, larger nanoparticles. Image is roughly 1,700 nm on a side.
Credit: MacCuspie, NIST
View hi-resolution image
Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) image of silver nanoparticles formed from silver ions in solution with humic acid. The acid tends to coat the nano particles (visible here as a pale cloud), keeping them in a colloidal suspension instead of clumping together. (Color added for clarity.)
Credit: SUNY, Buffalo
View hi-resolution image

A team of researchers from the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), the State University of New York (SUNY), Buffalo, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) reports that, given a source of silver ions, naturally occurring humic acid will synthesize stable silver nanoparticles.

“Our colleague, Virender Sharma, had read an article in which they were using wine to form nanoparticles. He thought that, based on the similar chemistry, we should be able to produce silver nanoparticles with humic acids,” explains FIT chemist Mary Sohn. “First we formed them by traditional methods and then we tried one of our river sediment humic acids. We were really excited that we could see the characteristic yellow color of the nanoparticles.” Samples were sent to Sarbajit Banerjee at SUNY Buffalo and Robert MacCuspie at NIST for detailed analyses to confirm the presence of silver nanoparticles.

“Humic acid” is a complex mixture of many organic acids that are formed during the decay of dead organic matter. Although the exact composition varies from place to place and season to season, humic acid is ubiquitous in the environment. Metallic nanoparticles, MacCuspie explains, have characteristic colors that are a direct consequence of their size.** Silver nanoparticles appear a yellowish brown.

The team mixed silver ions with humic acid from a variety of sources at different temperatures and concentrations and found that acids from river water or sediments would form detectable silver nanoparticles at room temperature in as little as two to four days. Moreover, MacCuspie says, the humic acid appears to stabilize the nanoparticles by coating them and preventing the nanoparticles from clumping together into a larger mass of silver. “We believe it’s actually a similar process to how nanoparticles are synthesized in the laboratory,” he says, except that the lab process typically uses citric acid at elevated temperatures.

“This caught us by surprise because a lot of our work is focused on how silver nanoparticles may dissolve when they’re released into the environment and release silver ions,” MacCuspie says. Many biologists believe the toxicity of silver nanoparticles, the reason for their use as an antibacterial or antifungal agent, is due to their high surface area that makes them an efficient source of silver ions, he says, but “this creates the idea that there may be some sort of natural cycle returning some of the ions to nanoparticles.” It also helps explain the discovery, over the past few years, of silver nanoparticles in locations like old mining regions that are not likely to have been exposed to man-made nanoparticles, but would have significant concentrations of silver ions.

* N. Akaighe, R.I. MacCuspie, D.A. Navarro, D.S. Aga, S. Banerjee, M. Sohn and V.K. Sharma. Humic acid-induced silver nanoparticle formation under environmentally relevant conditions. Environmental Science & Technology, Published online Apr. 1, 2011. dx.doi.org/10.1021/es103946g.
** The effect is called “surface plasmon resonance” and is caused by surface electrons across the nanoparticle oscillating in concert.

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

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Marine Lab Research Tracks Pollutants in Dolphins and Beluga Whales

Bottlenose dolphins* and beluga whales**, two marine species at or near the top of their respective food webs, accumulate more chemical pollutants in their bodies when they live and feed in waters near urbanized areas, according to scientists working at the Hollings Marine Laboratory (HML), a government-university collaboration in Charleston, S.C.

In papers recently published online by the journal Environmental Science & Technology, one research team looked at the levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) found in male dolphins along the U.S. East and Gulf of Mexico coasts and Bermuda, while the other group examined the levels of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in beluga whales at two Alaskan locations. Data gathered in both studies are expected to serve as baseline measurements for future research to define the health effects and impacts of these pollutants on the two species.

dolphin
A bottlenose dolphin breaches the ocean surface.
Credit: Dolphin Ecology Project

POPs are a large group of man-made chemicals that, as their name indicates, persist in the environment. They can spread globally through air and water, accumulate in the food chain, and may have carcinogenic, neurodevelopmental, immune or endrocrine effects on both wildlife and humans. To study POP concentrations in male bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Duke University Marine Laboratory, Florida State University and the Chicago Zoological Society teamed up to collect and examine blubber biopsy samples from 2000 to 2007 at eight locations along the U.S. East coast (from New Jersey to Eastern Florida), five sites in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and off Bermuda. The researchers analyzed the dolphin blubber for POPs that were once used as insecticides (such as DDT), insulating fluids (polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs), flame retardants (polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs) and a fungicide (hexachlorobenzene, or HCB).

Overall, PCBs were the pollutants found in the highest concentrations across the 14 sampling locations, followed by DDT, other pesticides and PBDEs, and HCB. Levels for POPs were statistically higher in dolphins living and feeding in waters near more urban and industrialized areas. The exceptions were the PCB levels recorded in dolphins living in waters near Brunswick, Ga., contaminated from a former factory that is now an Environmental Protection Agency “Superfund” cleanup site. These PCB levels were the highest ever observed in a group of living marine mammals.

beluga
A beluga whale swimming underwater.
Credit: Luna Vandoome, Shutterstock

In the second study, a NIST team analyzed the levels of 12 PFCs in livers harvested from 68 beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) that had lived and fed in two Alaskan locations: Cook Inlet in the urban southern part of the state and the Chukchi Sea in the remote northern part. The samples were collected from 1989 to 2006 by Native Alaskans during subsistence hunts and stored at NIST’s National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank (NMMTB). This was the first study to look at the concentration of PFCs in belugas from Alaska.

PFCs have been used as nonstick coatings and additives in a wide variety of goods including cookware, furniture fabrics, carpets, food packaging, fire-fighting foams and cosmetics. They are very stable, persist for a long time in the environment and are known to be toxic to the liver, reproductive organs and immune systems of laboratory mammals.

PFCs were detected in all of the beluga livers, with two compounds—perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctane sulfonamide (PFOSA)—found in more than half the samples. All but one of the PFC concentrations measured were significantly higher in the Cook Inlet belugas, an expected result given the nearby urban, industrialized area. The exception was PFOSA, where levels were higher amongst the Chukchi Sea whales. The researchers are unsure if this is the result of the pollutant being carried into the remote region by ocean currents, atmospheric transport or a combination of both. They also found that PFC concentrations in belugas increased significantly over the seven-year study period and were mostly higher in males.

The HML is a unique partnership of governmental and academic agencies including NIST, NOAA’s National Ocean Service, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina. NIST maintains the NMMTB at the HML to provide archived samples for retrospective analysis of contaminants of emerging concern.

* J. Kucklick, L. Schwacke, R. Wells, A. Hohn, A. Guichard, J. Yordy, L. Hansen, E. Zolman, R. Wilson, J. Litz, D. Nowacek, T. Rowles, R. Pugh, B. Balmer, C. Sinclair and P. Rosel. Bottlenose dolphins as indicators of persistent organic pollutants in the western north Atlantic ocean and northern gulf of Mexico. Environmental Science & Technology. Published online Apr. 28, 2011.
** J.L. Reiner, S.G. O’Connell, A.J. Moors, J.R. Kucklick, P.R. Becker and J.M. Keller. Spatial and temporal trends of perfluorinated compounds in beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) from Alaska. Environmental Science & Technology. Published online Feb. 10, 2011.

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

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Drive Test: NIST Super-stable Laser Shines in Minivan Experiment

In a step toward taking the most advanced atomic clocks on the road, physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have designed and demonstrated a super-stable laser operating in a cramped, vibrating location—a minivan.

NIST researcher David Leibrandt
NIST researcher David Leibrandt tests the stability of an advanced laser in a minivan. The laser and related instruments are inside the box, which is 2 by 2 by 2.5 feet in size. The stainless steel cylinder at the lower left contains the optical cavity used to stabilize the laser, which is hidden behind the cylinder.
Credit: NIST
View hi-resolution image

The experiment shows how advanced lasers can be made both stable and transportable enough for field use in geodesy, hydrology, improved radar and space-based tests of fundamental physics.

The drive tests, limited to a short excursion of five meters across the grass at the NIST Boulder, Colo., campus, are described in Optics Express.* Scientists evaluated the infrared fiber laser’s performance with the vehicle stationary, with the motor alternately off and idling, and moving over uneven ground at speeds of less than 1 meter per second (i.e., 3.6 km/hr). The laser frequency remained stable enough with the car parked—the most likely situation in the field—to be used in some applications now, says David Leibrandt, a NIST post-doctoral researcher.

“Our group has been building and using ultra-stable lasers for more than 10 years, but they’re large and delicate,” Leibrandt explains. “The ones we use for our optical atomic clocks occupy a small room and have to be very carefully isolated from seismic and acoustic vibrations. This paper presents a new design that is less sensitive to vibrations and could be made much smaller.”

NIST scientists stabilized the test laser’s frequency using a common technique—locking it to the extremely consistent length of an optical glass cavity. This sphere, about the size of a small orange, hangs in a customized mount with just the right stiffness. The scientists also designed a system to correct the laser frequency when the vehicle moves. Six accelerometers surrounding the cavity measure its linear and rotational acceleration. The accelerometers’ signals are routed to a programmable computer chip that predicts and corrects the laser frequency in less than 100 microseconds.

The new laser will make it easier to use advanced atomic clocks for geodesy (measurements of the Earth), an application envisioned by the same NIST research group.** The laser also might be used on moving platforms, perhaps in space-based physics experiments or on Earth generating low-noise signals for radar. Study results indicate the laser is roughly 10 times more resistant to undesirable effects from vibration or acceleration than the best radio frequency crystal oscillators. Improved mechanical design and higher-bandwidth accelerometers could make the laser even more stable in the future, the researchers say.

The research is supported by the Office of Naval Research, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

* D.R. Leibrandt, M.J. Thorpe, J.C. Bergquist and T. Rosenband. Field-test of a robust, portable, frequency-stable laser. Optics Express. May 23, 2011 / Vol. 19, No. 11. Published online May 10, 2011.
** See the Sept. 23, 2010, NIST news story “NIST Pair of Aluminum Atomic Clocks Reveal Einstein’s Relativity at a Personal Scale,” at http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/aluminum-atomic-clock_092310.cfm.

Media Contact: Laura Ost, laura.ost@nist.gov, 303-497-4880

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The Secret Behind NIST's New Gas Detector? Chirp Before Sniffing

Trace gas detection, the ability to detect a scant quantity of a particular molecule—a whiff of formaldehyde or a hint of acetone—in a vast sea of others, underlies many important applications, from medical tests to air pollution detectors to bomb sniffers. Now, a sensor recently developed* at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that is hundreds of times faster and more sensitive than other similar technologies may make such detectors portable, economical and fast enough to be used everywhere.

Graph shows the NIST detector’s linear increase in frequency as a function of time, sweeping from 550-561 Gigahertz in frequency over 100 nanoseconds.
Graph shows the NIST detector’s linear increase in frequency as a function of time, sweeping from 550-561 Gigahertz in frequency over 100 nanoseconds. Click on the image to see an animation of the process, slowed to 5 seconds and using an audio chirp as an analogy to the terahertz chirp.
Credit: Douglass, NIST
View hi-resolution image

According to the NIST investigators, the new sensor overcomes many of the difficulties associated with trace gas detection, a technique also used widely in industry to measure contaminants and ensure quality in manufacturing. A trace level of a particular gas can indicate a problem exists nearby, but many sensors are only able to spot a specific type of gas, and some only after a long time spent analyzing a sample. The NIST sensor, however, works quickly and efficiently.

“This new sensor can simultaneously detect many different trace gases at very fast rates and with high sensitivity,” says NIST chemist Kevin Douglass. “It’s also built from off-the-shelf technology that you can carry in your hands. We feel it has great commercial potential.”

The key to the new sensor is the use of radiation at “terahertz” frequencies—between infrared and microwaves. Terahertz waves can make gas molecules rotate at rates unique to each type of gas, which implies the waves hold great promise for identifying gases and measuring how much gas is present. The NIST team has developed the technology to rotate the molecules “in phase”—imagine synchronized swimmers—and detect the spinning molecules easily as they gradually fall out of phase with each other.

A major hurdle the new technology overcomes is that it is now possible to look at nearly all possible gas molecules instantly using terahertz frequencies. Previously, it was necessary to expose molecules to a vast range of terahertz frequencies—slowly, one after another. Because no technology existed that could run through the entire frequency band quickly and easily, the NIST team had to teach their off-the-shelf equipment to “chirp.”

“The sensor sends a quick series of waves that run the range from low frequency to high, sort of like the ‘chirp’ of a bird call,” says Douglass. “No other terahertz sensor can do this, and it’s why ours works so fast. Teaching it to chirp in a repeatable way has been one of our team’s main innovations, along with the mathematical analysis tools that help it figure out what gas you’re looking at.”

The NIST team has applied for a patent on its creation, which can plug into a power outlet and should be robust enough to survive in a real-world working environment.

* E. Gerecht, K.O. Douglass and D.F. Plusquellic. Chirped-pulse terahertz spectroscopy for broadband trace gas sensing. Optics Express, April 22, 2011, Vol. 19, Issue 9, pp. 8973-8984 (2011), doi:10.1364/OE.19.008973.

Media Contact: Chad Boutin, boutin@nist.gov, 301-975-4261

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New Calculations on Blackbody Energy Set the Stage for Clocks with Unprecedented Accuracy

A team of physicists from the United States and Russia announced today* that it has developed a means for computing, with unprecedented accuracy, a tiny, temperature-dependent source of error in atomic clocks. Although small, the correction could represent a big step towards atomic timekeepers' longstanding goal of a clock with a precision equivalent to one second of error every 32 billion years—longer than the age of the universe.

Precision timekeeping is one of the bedrock technologies of modern science and technology. It underpins precise navigation on Earth and in deep space, synchronization of broadband data streams, precision measurements of motion, forces and fields, and tests of the constancy of the laws of nature over time.

"Using our calculations, researchers can account for a subtle effect that is one of the largest contributors to error in modern atomic timekeeping," says lead author Marianna Safronova of the University of Delaware, the first author of the presentation**. "We hope that our work will further improve upon what is already the most accurate measurement in science: the frequency of the aluminum quantum-logic clock," adds co-author Charles Clark, a physicist at the Joint Quantum Institute, a collaboration of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland.

The paper was presented today at the 2011 Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics in Baltimore, Md.

The team studied an effect that is familiar to anyone who has basked in the warmth of a campfire: heat radiation. Any object at any temperature, whether the walls of a room, a person, the Sun or a hypothetical perfect radiant heat source known as a "black body," emits heat radiation. Even a completely isolated atom senses the temperature of its environment. Like heat swells the air in a hot-air balloon, so-called "blackbody radiation" (BBR) enlarges the size of the electron clouds within the atom, though to a much lesser degree—by one part in a hundred trillion, a size that poses a severe challenge to precision measurement.

This effect comes into play in the world's most precise atomic clock, recently built by NIST researchers***. This quantum-logic clock, based on atomic energy levels in the aluminum ion, Al+, has an uncertainty of plus or minus 0.000 000 000 000 000 008 6, or about 1 second in 3.7 billion years, due to a number of small effects that shift the actual tick rate of the clock.

To correct for the BBR shift, the team used the quantum theory of atomic structure to calculate the BBR shift of the atomic energy levels of the aluminum ion. To gain confidence in their method, they successfully reproduced the energy levels of the aluminum ion, and also compared their results against a predicted BBR shift in a strontium ion clock recently built in the United Kingdom. Their calculation reduces the relative uncertainty due to room-temperature BBR in the aluminum ion to 4 x 10-19 , or better than 18 decimal places, and a factor of 7 better than previous BBR calculations.

Current aluminum-ion clocks have larger sources of uncertainty than the BBR effect, but next-generation aluminum clocks are expected to greatly reduce those larger uncertainties and benefit substantially from better knowledge of the BBR shift.

* Originally posted on May 6, 2011.
** M. Safronova, M. Kozlov and C.W. Clark, "Precision Calculation of Blackbody Radiation Shifts for Metrology at the 18th Decimal Place." Paper CFC 3, presented on May 6,2011, at CLEO 2011, Baltimore, Md. Also presented on May 3, 2011, at the 2011 Joint Conference of the IEEE International Frequency Control Symposium & the European Frequency and Time Forum, San Francisco, Calif., Paper 7175. 
*** See the Feb. 4, 2010 NIST announcement, "NIST's Second 'Quantum Logic Clock' Based on Aluminum Ion is Now World's Most Precise Clock" at www.nist.gov/pml/div688/logicclock_020410.cfm.
Edited on May 26, 2011 to clarify the uncertainty statement concerning the quantum-logic clock.

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

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Build Safety into the Very Beginning of the Computer System

A new publication from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provides guidelines to secure the earliest stages of the computer boot process. Commonly known as the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS), this fundamental system firmware—computer code built into hardware—initializes the hardware when you switch on the computer before starting the operating system. BIOS security is a new area of focus for NIST computer security scientists.

"By building security into the firmware, you establish the foundation for a secure system," said Andrew Regenscheid, one of the authors of BIOS Protection Guidelines (NIST Special Publication 800-147). Without appropriate protections, attackers could disable systems or hide malicious software by modifying the BIOS. This guide is focused on reducing the risk of unauthorized changes to the BIOS.

Designed to assist computer manufacturers writing BIOS code, SP 800-147 provides guidelines for building features into the BIOS that help protect it from being modified or corrupted by attackers. Manufacturers routinely update system firmware to fix bugs, patch vulnerabilities and support new hardware. SP 800-147 calls for using cryptographic "digital signatures" to authenticate the BIOS updates before installation based on NIST's current cryptographic guidelines.* The publication is available just as computer manufacturers are beginning to deploy a new generation of BIOS firmware. "We believe computer manufacturers are ready to implement these guidelines and we hope to see them in products soon," said Regenscheid.

The publication also suggests management best practices that are tightly coupled with the security guidelines for manufacturers. These practices will help computer administrators take advantage of the BIOS protection features as they become available.

BIOS Protection Guidelines, NIST SP 800-147, is available at http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-147/NIST-SP800-147-April2011.pdf.

* See Digital Signature Standard (FIPS 186-3, June 2009) at http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/fips/fips186-3/fips_186-3.pdf,

Recommendation for Key Management – Part 1: General (NIST SP 800-57, March 2008) at http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-57/sp800-57-Part1-revised2_Mar08-2007.pdf, and

Recommendation for Obtaining Assurances for Digital Signature Applications (NIST SP 800-89,  November 2006) at http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-89/SP-800-89_November2006.pdf

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

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New Report Updates Statistics on Federal Tech Transfer Efforts

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released a summary report on technology transfer activities of the federal laboratories for fiscal year 2009. The report summarizes the technology transfer activities and achievements of scientific research agencies across the federal government.

In January 2011 President Obama identified innovation as one of the key factors underpinning America’s continued scientific and technical leadership. Technology transfer is an essential mission of federal laboratories that leverages the creative the innovation and intellectual capital of government scientists and the nation’s investments in science and technology to strengthen the American economy and the nation’s ability to compete in world markets.

The statistical data provided in this report indicate that from 2005 to 2009, collaborations at federal labs using CRADAs (Cooperative Research and Development Agreements) show a slightly upward trend along with new patent applications and issued patents.

Federal laboratories transfer many technologies through other mechanisms not listed in this report. A number of studies are under way to evaluate technology transfer and develop metrics that will more fully describe how federal research supports the U.S. economy.

Federal Laboratory Technology Transfer—Fiscal Year 2009 is available at www.nist.gov/tpo/publications/upload/Federal-Lab-TT-Report-FY2009.pdf.

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

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NIST's Charles Clark Named Co-Director of the Joint Quantum Institute

Physicist Charles Clark of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has been named a co-director of the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI), a research collaboration that includes NIST and the University of Maryland. Clark joins UM’s Steve Rolston in leading JQI. He succeeds Carl Williams, who recently completed a five-year term as the founding NIST co-director.

Charles Clark
Charles Clark
Credit: NIST
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“JQI owes its spectacular success to Carl Williams as much as to anyone else,” said Clark. “Foundation of joint institutes between federal agencies and research universities always seems like a good idea, but there are immense practical difficulties in settling the details. We all owe much to Carl for his sustained hard work in making JQI possible, sealing the deal within complex and shifting multi-institutional constraints.”

The JQI brings together scientists who study physical systems that obey the counterintuitive rules of quantum physics, which, for example, cause atomic and subatomic objects such as electrons to behave as either particles or waves depending on how they are viewed. Typical research areas at JQI include the fundamental physics of superconductors that enable the flow of electrons without resistance; ultracold atomic gases that can simulate the behavior of more complex quantum systems that are impossible to model with today’s supercomputers; and quantum information, which aims to use the unique properties of quantum systems for more powerful and secure computation and communication than can be achieved with the realm of classical physics.

Clark was chief of the NIST Electron and Optical Physics Division for 20 years before being appointed a NIST Fellow in 2010, thereby joining the ranks of NIST and JQI Fellows Paul Lett, Paul Julienne and Nobel Laureate Bill Phillips. His research activities are focused on theoretical atomic, molecular and optical physics. Among his signal accomplishments to date are the co-development of the Digital Library of Mathematical Functions (http://dlmf.nist.gov), accompanied by the Cambridge University Press publication of “The NIST Handbook of Mathematical Functions” in 2010, and supervising five University of Maryland Ph.D. theses while serving as a full-time employee of NIST. He is actively engaged in spreading physics research news through social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

More information on JQI is available at http://jqi.umd.edu. Additional details of Clark’s career and publications are at http://jqi.umd.edu/about-us/people/fellows-gallery/136-charles-clark.html.

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

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NIST/JILA Physicist Jun Ye Elected to National Academy of Sciences

Physicist Jun Ye, a Fellow of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and a Fellow of JILA, a joint institute of NIST and the University of Colorado Boulder, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Election to the academy is one of the highest honors that can be given to a U.S. scientist or engineer. New members are elected by current members in recognition of distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

Jun Ye in his laboratory
NIST physicist Jun Ye adjusts the laser setup for a strontium atomic clock in his laboratory at JILA, a joint institute of NIST and the University of Colorado Boulder.
Credit: J. Burrus/NIST
View hi-resolution image

Ye is known internationally for three areas of research involving interactions of matter and light. His experimental atomic clock based on strontium atoms is one of a number of candidate systems under development at NIST and elsewhere as a potential next-generation time standard.* Ye also contributes to the development and application of optical frequency combs, ultrafast laser-based tools for precisely measuring different colors of light.** Most recently, Ye and colleague Deborah Jin created a new area of research on the behavior and chemistry of ultracold molecules, which may provide practical tools for “designer chemistry” and other applications.***

Ye has received many previous honors, including the Department of Commerce Gold Medal, NIST’s Samuel W. Stratton Award, the Optical Society of America’s William F. Meggers Award, the American Physical Society’s I.I. Rabi Prize, the Arthur S. Flemming Award, and the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering.

Ye was born in Shanghai, China, and earned a bachelor’s degree in physics at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. In 1989 he moved to the United States and later received his Ph.D. in physics from CU-Boulder, where his thesis advisor and mentor was NIST/JILA Nobel laureate John (Jan) Hall. After postdoctoral research with Jeff Kimble at the California Institute of Technology, Ye joined the NIST staff and JILA faculty in 1999.

* Feb. 14, 2008: “Collaboration Helps Make JILA Strontium Atomic Clock ‘Best in Class,’” www.nist.gov/public_affairs/clock/clock.html.
** Mar. 16, 2006: “‘Frequency Comb’ Spectroscopy Proves to be Powerful Chemical Analysis Tool,” www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/frequency_combs.cfm
*** Feb. 11, 2010: “Seeing the Quantum in Chemistry: JILA Scientists Control Chemical Reactions of Ultracold Molecules,” www.nist.gov/pml/div689/ultracold_021110.cfm.

Media Contact: Laura Ost, laura.ost@nist.gov, 303-497-4880

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