In This Issue...
NIST Seeks Help in Understanding Public Response to Joplin Tornado
As part of its technical study on the impacts of the devastating May 22, 2011, tornado that struck Joplin, Mo., the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will be conducting interviews in the Joplin area with survivors and the families and friends of victims from Oct. 14 - Dec. 1, 2011. The interviews will be designed to obtain information about what individuals saw, heard, felt and did before, during and after the tornado to better understand how people within the warning area responded.
The interviews will help NIST determine the behavior and fate of individuals, both those who survived and those who did not, by collecting and analyzing information on injuries and fatalities, human behavior, situation awareness, and emergency communications before and during the Joplin tornado.
Anyone wishing to participate in the NIST interviews should call (240) 780-6701, or contact contractor Jennifer Spinney at firstname.lastname@example.org or NIST researcher Erica Kuligowski at email@example.com. Interviews can be conducted by phone anytime during the Oct. 14 - Dec. 1, 2011, period, or in person when the interviewers will be in Joplin from Oct. 21 – 31, 2011.
The massive tornado in Joplin was rated category EF5, the most powerful on the Enhanced Fujita scale. According to the National Weather Service (NWS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the multiple-vortex storm impacted an area approximately three-quarters of a mile wide by 22 miles long, destroyed or damaged some 8,000 structures in its path, and killed more than 150 people. This makes it the single deadliest tornado in the United States in the 61 years that official records have been kept.
From May 25-28, 2011, NIST sent four engineers to Joplin to conduct a preliminary reconnaissance of building performance and emergency communications during the tornado. Based on the analysis of the data collected and other criteria required by regulation, the NIST Director established a research team under the National Construction Safety Team Act to proceed with a more comprehensive study of the impacts of the disaster.
Along with the previously stated aim of better understanding public response and behavior, the other objectives of the NIST technical study are to:
For more information on the NIST Joplin tornado study, go to http://www.nist.gov/el/disasterstudies/weather/joplin-072511.cfm.
Media Contact: Michael E. Newman, firstname.lastname@example.org, (301) 975-3025
Magnetic Attraction: NIST/CU Microchip Demonstrates Concept of 'MRAM for Biomolecules'
Researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and University of Colorado Boulder (CU) have developed a low-power microchip that uses a combination of microfluidics and magnetic switches to trap and transport magnetic beads. The novel transport chip may have applications in biotechnology and medical diagnostics.
A key innovation in the new chip is the use of magnetic switches like those in a computer random access memory. As described in a new paper,* the NIST/CU team used the chip to trap, release and transport magnetic beads that potentially could be used as transport vehicles for biomolecules such as DNA.
Conventional microfluidics systems use pumps and valves to move particles and liquids through channels. Magnetic particle transport microchips offer a new approach to microfluidics but generally require continuous power and in some cases cooling to avoid sample damage from excessive heating. The NIST/CU technology eliminates these drawbacks while offering the possibility for random access two-dimensional control and a memory that lasts even with the power off.
The demo chip features two adjacent lines of 12 thin-film magnet switches called spin valves, commonly used as magnetic sensors in read heads of high-density computer disk drives. In this case, however, the spin valves have been optimized for magnetic trapping. Pulses of electric current are used to switch individual spin valve magnets “on” to trap a bead, or “off” to release it, and thereby move the bead down a ladder formed by the two lines (see video clip). The beads start out suspended in salt water above the valves before being trapped in the array.
“It’s a whole new way of thinking about microfluidics,” says NIST physicist John Moreland. “The cool thing is it’s a switchable permanent magnet—after it’s turned on it requires no power. You beat heat by switching things quickly, so you only need power for less than a microsecond.”
NIST researchers previously demonstrated that spin valves could be used to trap and rotate particles** and recently were awarded two patents related to the idea of a magnetic chip. ***
Magnetic tags are used in bioassays such as protein and DNA purification and cell breakdown and separation. The chip demonstration provides a conceptual foundation for a more complex magnetic random access memory (MRAM) for molecular and cellular manipulation. For example, programmable microfluidic MRAM chips might simultaneously control a large number of beads, and the attached molecules or cells, to assemble “smart” tags with specified properties, such as an affinity for a given protein at a specific position in the array. NIST is also interested in developing cellular and molecular tags for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies in which individual cells, such as cancer cells or stem cells, would be tagged with a smart magnetic biomarker that can be tracked remotely in an MRI scanner, Moreland says. Automated spin valve chips might also be used in portable instruments for rapid medical diagnosis or DNA sequencing.
The lead author of the new paper, Wendy Altman, did the research at NIST as a CU graduate student working on her doctoral thesis. Another author, Bruce Han, was a CU student in NIST’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program.
* W.R. Altman, J. Moreland, S.E. Russek, B.W. Han and V. M. Bright. 2011. Controlled transport of superparamagnetic beads with spin-valves. Applied Physics Letters, Vol. 99, Issue 14, Oct. 3.
** See 2007 Tech Beat article, “Magnetic Computer Sensors May Help Study Biomolecules,” at http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/techbeat/tb2007_0510.htm#spinvalve.
*** U.S. Patent 7,981,696 B2, awarded July 19, 2011, and U.S. Patent 7,985,599 B2, awarded July 26, 2011. Inventors John Moreland, Elizabeth Mirowski, and Stephen Russek. Microfluidic platform of arrayed switchable spin-valve elements for high-throughput sorting and manipulation of magnetic particles and biomolecules.
Media Contact: Laura Ost, email@example.com, (303) 497-4880
NIST Data Set Details Federal Tech Transfer Efforts Since 1987
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has compiled and released a comprehensive set of data detailing federal technology transfer activities between 1987 and 2009. This report compiles in a single place data from multiple sources. By releasing the raw, unanalyzed data, NIST aims to further ongoing research to improve the measurement and evaluation of federal technology transfer efforts and, ultimately, to broaden their impact.
The federal government now spends about $35 billion annually on research conducted by federally operated labs, as well as by federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs). A significant portion of that research results in inventions or findings that contribute to the development of new technologies and processes. Commercialization of these outputs can yield economic and social benefits that increase returns on the taxpayer investment in federal research and development.
The Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 required all federal agencies to make technology transfer part of their mission. More recent legislation, such as the Technology Transfer Commercialization Act of 2000 and the America Competes Act of 2007, mandated that federal agencies report technology transfer activities. Since 2007, NIST ‘s Technology Partnerships Office has been responsible for preparing reports on technology transfer for the Department of Commerce as well as summarizing the activities reported by federal agencies and FFRDCs.
Since 2001, the Department of Commerce has issued annual reports summarizing technology transfer activities across federal departments and agencies.
The data set details Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs), invention disclosures, licenses, patents applied for and issued, and several other indicators of technology transfer efforts.
The data is available in Excel format at http://www.nist.gov/tpo/publications/index.cfm as “Federal Technology Transfer Data 1987 - 2009, October 2011” under the heading “Federal Laboratory (Interagency) Technology Transfer Summary Reports.” This site also includes copies of the Federal Summary Reports on Technology Transfer.
Media Contact: Mark Esser, firstname.lastname@example.org, (301) 975-8735
NIST Publishes Guide for Monitoring Security in Information Systems
A new computer security publication* from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will help organizations understand their security posture against threats and vulnerabilities and determine how effectively their security controls are working.
Information Security Continuous Monitoring (ISCM) for Information Systems and Organizations (NIST Special Publication [SP] 800-137) aims to provide guidance for information security monitoring in all types of information systems – a term that encompasses not only computer networks but also a host of other interconnected devices and software. According to Kelley Dempsey, a researcher in NIST’s Computer Security Division and one of the authors, the publication is geared toward helping an organization ensure that its security measures are performing as desired over time.
“This is a guide for an organization that has already implemented the first five steps of the NIST Risk Management Framework (RMF) and is ready to move on to the last step, which is developing a systematic way of making sure the previous steps are implemented effectively,” says Dempsey. “Our publication can help an organization monitor the security posture of the organization and its systems on an ongoing basis.”
Dempsey says SP 800-137 is tightly coupled to two other NIST publications, SP 800-37 and SP 800-39, which describe all the steps in the risk management process. Those previous publications describe risk management and the RMF so that developers are able to determine a system’s boundaries, security category and required controls. Once these steps are complete, SP 800-137 can guide an organization’s efforts to monitor its system’s effectiveness in a customized fashion – something the authors describe as a move from “compliance-driven” to “data-driven” risk management.
“In the end, you don’t want to just get some generic to-do checklist and follow its orders – you want to get data from the systems within your organization and respond to it in a way appropriate for your own specific needs,” Dempsey says. “We hope this guide will enable users to do that.”
Dempsey adds that a major feature of SP 800-137 is a list of criteria to help users determine how frequently to monitor each of the controls in an information system. The list, she says, will help users perceive how often each control is to be checked – a frequency that may be different for each control.
*SP 800-137 is available from NIST’s Computer Security Resource Center at http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-137/SP800-137-Final.pdf, and SP 800-37 and SP 800-39 are available at http://csrc.nist.gov/ as well.
Media Contact: Chad Boutin, email@example.com, (301) 975-4261
Federal Cloud Technology Roadmap to be Introduced at Forum & Workshop, Nov. 2-4
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will unveil the public draft of its U.S. Government Cloud Computing Technology Roadmap at the Cloud Computing Forum & Workshop IV that it will host Nov. 2-4, in Gaithersburg, Md.
The meeting also will feature an update on NIST’s progress in helping to develop open standards to enable interoperability, portability and security in cloud computing.
Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service-provider interaction.
NIST’s role in cloud computing is to help accelerate the secure and effective adoption of cloud computing. The agency leads efforts to develop standards and guidelines and advance cloud computing technology in collaboration with standards bodies, businesses and other private-sector organizations, government agencies and other stakeholders. Many of these stakeholders participate in NIST-led cloud-computing working groups that convene throughout the year.
The U.S. Chief Information Officer, Steve Van Roekel and Patrick Gallagher, NIST Director and Commerce Department Under Secretary for Standards and Technology, will deliver opening remarks. Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, will chair a panel discussion.
Panel sessions will explore a variety of topics and issues influencing the evolution of cloud computing, including infrastructure, security, standards, international perspectives, and opportunities for collaboration.
During the first two days of the meeting, which will be held at NIST, government, industrial, academic and standards organizations will showcase real-world cloud-computing collaborations.
The final day of the event, which will be held at the Crown Plaza Hotel, in Rockville, Md., will feature three tracks: U.S. Government Business Use Cases; Using the Reference Architecture and Taxonomy; and Reviewing the Roadmap Security Requirements List in the Context of the Security Working Group and U.S. Government Security Examples.
For more information on the Cloud Computing Forum and Workshop IV, including the agenda and registration, see http://www.nist.gov/itl/cloud/cloudworkshopiv.cfm.
Reporters interested in attending should contact Evelyn Brown prior to the meeting.
Media Contact: Evelyn Brown, firstname.lastname@example.org, (301) 975-5661
NIST Cooperative Agreement with University of Maryland Supports Research on 21st Century Smart Systems
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) awarded today a $1 million cooperative agreement to the University of Maryland at College Park (UMD). Researchers at UMD’s Institute for Systems Research will help NIST as it develops and deploys standards, test methods and measurement tools to support consistently reliable performance of new smart systems.
The new technologies, known as cyber-physical systems (CPS), are networked physical, computer and biological technologies. Examples are building control systems and remotely monitored and controlled medical devices. Computing, communication and automation capabilities are integrated into nearly every interconnected component of such systems, including the materials from which they are made.
By developing standards, test methods and measurement tools, the UMD/NIST effort can help U.S. industry accelerate development of innovative cyber-physical system products that create jobs, while also protecting these new types of CPS infrastructure from cyber threats.
“Smart vehicles, buildings, electric grids and manufactured products that combine IT and physical technologies into interactive, self-fixing systems are transforming industries,” explains Shyam Sunder, director of NIST’s Engineering Laboratory. “These systems are fiendishly complex. Yet, the hardware and software must work 100 percent of the time. We want to help industry ensure that the systems are safe, secure and resilient.”
Computing, sensing, communication, control and related technologies already account for significant shares of the cost of cars, planes, machine tools, medical equipment and a host of other products. For many of these products, the CPS portion is expected to exceed 50 percent by the end of the decade. Innovations that distinguish one competitor’s offerings from the rest of the pack will depend increasingly on the mastery of CPS.
Under the new cooperative agreement, UMD and NIST will evaluate the existing technical and theoretical foundation for today’s rapidly evolving CPS, identify gaps and obstacles, and ascertain needs for measurement and standards. Institute for Systems Research staff also will assess existing and anticipated markets and develop a framework to help guide investments in CPS-related research.
Awarded over three years, the funding also will support efforts to devise a framework to foster an “open standards platform” approach that will enable systems and underlying subsystems and components to work together in an interoperable manner, unleashing creativity in developing innovative, new applications. A fourth set of research activities will focus on developing modeling and analytic tools for designing, integrating, testing and managing CPS.
“While we can expect an ever larger and more diverse range of smart operating systems and applications,” says Sunder, “they all share a basic set of requirements that should not be addressed in stovepipe fashion. With this effort we will take a broad view of these new technologies as we develop standards and measurement tools that would apply to all.”
“Current approaches to engineering CPS are at their infancy at best, and they are too application-specific, too costly, too error prone, and they take too long,” explains UMD principal investigator John S. Baras, the Lockheed Martin Professor in Systems Engineering and former (founding) director of the Institute for Systems Research. “There is a clear need for unifying principles within and across application domains. Investigating and understanding how the cyber components can be synergistically interweaved with the diverse physical components in CPS pose foundational research challenges in science, engineering and computing, and they will transform science and engineering education. We welcome the opportunity to help meet this need and the associated challenges by working closely with NIST scientists and engineers.”
Established in 1985 as one of the National Science Foundation's first six Engineering Research Centers, the Institute for Systems Research is an interdisciplinary research unit within the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland. It is home to about 100 faculty and other researchers from 14 departments and four colleges across the university.
NIST is a non-regulatory federal agency in the U.S. Department of Commerce. It promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.
Media Contact: Mark Bello, email@example.com, 301-975-3776
NIST Colleagues Congratulate Shechtman on Nobel Chemistry Prize
Additional Contact: Gail Porter
Gaithersburg, Md.— National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) colleagues of Dan Shechtman joined others in the scientific community today in congratulating him on winning the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Shechtman made his astonishing discovery of a quasicrystal—an arrangement of atoms thought to be forbidden by nature—while working as a guest researcher at NIST (then known as the National Bureau of Standards) in 1982.
Shechtman is currently a professor at the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion).
“We are thrilled that Dr. Shechtman’s pioneering work has been recognized with this well-deserved prize,” said NIST Director Patrick Gallagher. "This discovery completely changed the thinking of scientists about unusual arrangements of atoms within crystals and ultimately helped them to fabricate a wide range of new types of materials.”
The discovery, which launched an entirely new and, since, highly productive branch of materials science was so surprising that even his collaborators were a bit wary. NIST’s John Cahn, a National Medal of Science winner in 1998, thought the peculiar arrangement in the material—a rapidly cooled combination of aluminum and manganese, suggested that it was due to “twinning,” a flaw occasionally encountered in samples of crystalline materials.
“My initial reaction was, ‘Go away, Danny. These are twins and that’s not terribly interesting,” recalled Cahn, a co-author on the 1984 journal article that reported the discovery.
However, Shechtman’s scrutiny of the ribbon-like sample under a transmission electron microscope and by means of X-ray diffraction eliminated twinning as a cause of the extraordinary atomic structure and pointed in the direction of a material with five-fold symmetry. The breakthrough was, in Cahn's words “pure serendipity,” a paradigm-breaking result spawned by Shechtman’s research and persistence. Several NIST colleagues, who were focusing on the thermodynamics of rapidly solidified metal alloys, assisted him in the research.
Since the early 1800s, the laws governing the shape and form of crystal materials were well established. And since the early 1900s, X-ray diffraction studies enabled scientists to determine the precise organization of atoms within crystals—a symmetrical pattern of a continually repeating arrangement of atoms, called a unit cell. For more than a century, scientists believed that they had documented all the allowed arrangements of atoms in crystals—exactly 230 groupings in three dimensions.
Then came Shechtman’s seemingly outrageous discovery of a quasicrystal—a material that neither had the periodic symmetry of crystals nor the disordered or amorphous structure of other materials, such as glass. It was an “almost crystal” an aperiodic object that yielded diffraction patterns just like crystals, which are periodic objects with a regularly repeating internal structure.
Thanks to their novel structure, quasicrystals have properties that have proved desirable for a variety of products and applications. Examples include coatings in high-tech cookware that have non-stick, extremely durable surfaces. Quasicrystals also are used in components for energy-saving light-emitting diodes (LED) and in heat insulation in engines.
Shechtman was on a two-year sabbatical and worked as a guest researcher at NIST from 1981 to 1983. He then returned to Technion, where he continued to pore over the diffraction pattern data that he had collected at NIST. In 1984, he returned to NIST at the invitation of Cahn, to consult further. Initial efforts to publish an article reporting five-fold symmetry were unsuccessful until November 12, 1984, when the landmark article was published in Physical Review Letters.
Besides Cahn as one of Shechtman’s three co-authors, the article acknowledges other NIST contributors. It cites materials scientist Frank Biancaniello (now retired) and Camden R. Hubbard (now at Oak Ridge National Laboratory) for X-ray experiments.
During the 1980s, Shechtman continued to return to NIST to work with his collaborators. Between 1984 and 1986, NIST materials engineer William Boettinger and Shechtman were among the co-authors listed on five articles exploring aspects of quasicrystals.
D. Shechtman, I. Blech, D. Gratias, J.W. Cahn, Metallic Phase with Long-Range Orientational Order and No Translational Symmetry. Physical Review Letters. Vol. 53, No. 20; Nov. 12, 1984.
Media Contact: Mark Bello, firstname.lastname@example.org, 301-975-3776
Public/Private Leaders Collaborate on Ways to Fight Botnets
Washington, D.C.—The U.S. departments of Commerce and Homeland Security (DHS) today discussed with other federal agencies and private-sector leaders in the information technology industry the need to create a voluntary industry code of conduct to address the detection and mitigation of botnets. Botnets are collections of computers that are secretly infected with malware and then remotely controlled by spammers, hackers or criminals.
At an invitational meeting hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), IT, policy and other leaders met to brainstorm ideas about ways to fight the growing problem of botnets, including notification of consumers that their computers have been infected with botnet control software.
“Improving cybersecurity requires a combination of efforts in which everyone has a role to play,” White HouseCybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt said in his keynote address. “By working together to achieve better security, we can make the improvements needed that will ensure the security and resilience we need to prosper as a nation.”
On September 21, the departments of Commerce and Homeland Security issued a request for information through the Federal Register for individuals and organizations to share ideas about the requirements of and possible approaches to creating a voluntary code of conduct to address the detection, notification and mitigation of botnets.
At the CISIS event, keynote talks by senior officials were followed by a panel session featuring representatives from the Federal Communications Commission, U.S. Internet Service Provider Association, DHS, National Institute of Standards and Technology and StopBadware. The discussion centered on how Internet Service Providers and other organizations can detect botnet activity and promptly notify consumers that their computers have been compromised.
Over the past several years, botnets have increasingly put computer owners at risk. Researchers estimate that about 4 million new botnet infections occur each month. When a computer is infected by a botnet, the computer user’s personal information and communications can be monitored and that consumer’s computing power and Internet access can be exploited. Networks of these compromised computers are often used to disseminate spam, to store and transfer illegal content, and to attack the servers of government and private entities with massive, distributed denial of service attacks.
“Today’s discussion of building a code of conduct around botnet detection, notification and mitigation highlights the importance of maintaining a trusted and secure Internet and the potential of multi-stakeholder efforts,” Cameron Kerry, Commerce general counsel and chair of the department’s Internet Policy Task Force, said. “In a world where commerce and trade operate on exchange of digital information, security and privacy are two sides of the same coin, and this coin is essential currency.”
The public may submit comments in response to the Commerce/DHS Federal Register Request for Information about botnet mitigation on or before 5 p.m., November 4, 2011. For further information, contact Jon Boyens at email@example.com.
Additional Comments on the need to address botnets
U.S. Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman, Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation:
“The Administration’s action today is a good step toward implementing an industry-wide code for Internet providers to inform their customers when a computer virus is detected. Internet providers in other countries are already providing alerts and warnings to compromised consumers as well as offering free mitigation tools. I commend companies like Comcast, which are already following this same model by deploying technologies to protect their customers from online threats. This kind of private sector leadership is a cornerstone in my cybersecurity bill with Senator Snowe. In order to make cyberspace safe in the 21st century, it is critical that other U.S. companies follow suit.”
U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, Chairwoman, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies:
“The Internet has created virtual doors into our lives, finances, businesses and national security. Cyber spies, thieves and thugs are constantly testing the doorknobs, looking for a way in. American consumers have lost billions to cyber crime–which include botnet schemes and scams, and cyber criminals who continue to target the safety and security of our nation. These attacks demonstrate the growing sophistication of their hacking capabilities. Even as we make progress in the fight to stop these thugs, the government cannot afford to go it alone as cyber criminals continue to adjust their tactics. That’s why I am glad the Administration is tapping into American ingenuity and partnering with the private sector to combat these persistent threats to our infrastructure and beat back cyber thieves.”
Media Contact: Gail Porter, firstname.lastname@example.org, 301-975-3392