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In This Issue...
NIST FY 2012 Budget Signed Into Law
On Nov. 18, 2011, President Obama signed into law the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-55), which provides FY 2012 funding for a number of government agencies, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
The act provides $750.8 million for NIST overall, compared to $750.1 million in FY 2011. The FY 2012 funding is in three major categories.
Scientific and Technical Research and Services (STRS), the category that includes all of NIST’s in-house research and engineering activities, is funded at $567 million, an increase of almost $70 million over FY 2011. Notably, the Act specifically funds two special initiatives related to computer security, $10 million to establish a National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence and $16.5 million to support the Administration’s National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) Initiative. NIST manages the NSTIC program office and coordinates interagency activities in this area.
Industrial Technology Services (ITS), the category that includes NIST’s major outreach programs in manufacturing, technology innovation and quality, is funded at $128.4 million. The entire amount will fund the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a public-private partnership managed by NIST that operates a nationwide network of centers that work with small and midsized U.S. manufacturers to help them create and retain jobs, increase profits, and save time and money through services ranging from innovation strategies to process improvements to green manufacturing.
Construction of Research Facilities (CRF), the category that includes major maintenance and construction activities for the NIST laboratories, receives $55.4 million, a decrease of $14.5 million from FY 2011.
The NIST Technology Innovation Program (TIP), the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, and the proposed AMTech program will receive no appropriated funding in FY 2012.
NIST is in the process of an orderly shutdown of TIP, which for three years provided funding on a cost-shared, competitive basis to promote industry and academic research and development of technologies that address critical national needs, such as infrastructure maintenance and repair.
The Baldrige Program, which promotes management and performance excellence through the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and related activities, is looking into receiving funding, at a reduced level, from its private-sector partner, the Foundation for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, to continue operations at NIST for FY 2012.
The proposed Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech) Program would have created a new public-private partnership initiative that would provide federal grants to leverage existing consortia or establish new ones focused on long-term industrial research needs.
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Powerful NIST Detectors on Hawaiian Telescope to Probe Origins of Stars, Planets and Galaxies
The world’s largest submillimeter camera—based on superconducting technology designed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)—is now ready to scan the universe, including faint and faraway parts never seen before.
Mounted on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, the NIST technology will help accelerate studies of the origins of stars, planets and galaxies.
The new 4.5-ton SCUBA-2 camera, which contains more than 10,000 of NIST's superconducting sensors, is far more sensitive than its predecessor SCUBA (the highly productive Submillimeter Common-Use Bolometer Array), and will enable astronomers to map the sky hundreds of times faster and with a much larger field of view. SCUBA-2 will produce better images and sky maps, image new targets, and support deeper and broader surveys.
The product of an international research collaboration, SCUBA-2 will image objects ranging from comets in the Earth’s solar system to galaxies at the far ends of the universe. The camera is sensitive to objects associated with very cold gas and dust clouds, which absorb visible light (and therefore look black to optical telescopes) but emit the barest whiffs of submillimeter radiation—at wavelengths below 1 millimeter, between the microwave and infrared bands. Submillimeter light oscillates at terahertz frequencies, hundreds of times faster than cell phones.
“The submillimeter is the last frontier in astronomical imaging,” says NIST physicist Gene Hilton, who developed the fabrication method for the NIST instrument. “It’s been very difficult to develop cameras that work at this wavelength, so the submillimeter is largely unexplored. We’re excited to see what SCUBA-2 will reveal.”
SCUBA-2 complements other observatories. For instance, its ability to quickly carry out large-scale surveys could identify targets for high-resolution studies by the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (Alma), an array of radiotelescope dishes recently unveiled in Chile.
The NIST sensors precisely measure submillimeter radiated power using a superconducting metal, molybdenum-copper, that changes resistance in response to heat from radiation. Each tiny but powerful sensor functions as a single pixel in the camera. In sheer numbers of pixels, the NIST instrument is the largest superconducting camera ever made, although its physical size is only about 30 square inches divided into two areas targeting different wavelengths. SCUBA-2 can detect two colors of submillimeter light (at 450 and 850 micrometers).
The NIST sensor arrays are packaged with superconducting amplifiers to boost signal strength. The sensors and amplifiers are cooled to cryogenic temperatures near absolute zero. NIST physicist Kent Irwin, who invented the sensor technology, worked with Hilton and other NIST researchers to develop a way of linking the amplifiers to make large-scale sensor arrays practical, greatly reducing the number of wires between the cryogenic instruments and the room-temperature electronics used to compile the data.
SCUBA-2 is a collaboration of the UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh, Scotland; NIST; four British and Canadian universities; and the Joint Astronomy Centre in Hawaii, which operates the telescope. For more, see the news announcement "Revolutionary new camera reveals the dark side of the Universe" at www.stfc.ac.uk/News%20and%20Events/38072.aspx.
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Study Finds Failure Points in Firefighter Protective Equipment
In fire experiments conducted in uniformly furnished, but vacant Chicago-area townhouses, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) researchers uncovered temperature and heat-flow conditions that can seriously damage facepiece lenses on standard firefighter breathing equipment, a potential contributing factor for first-responder fatalities and injuries.
The findings are detailed in a report* from a research study sponsored by the U.S. Fire Administration and Department of Homeland Security. The work is an important step toward improving what may be the most vulnerable component of a firefighter's protective gear in high-heat conditions: the facepiece lenses of the so-called self-contained breathing apparatus, or SCBA.
Failure of the lens can expose a firefighter to toxic gases and can result in burns to the respiratory tract as well as asphyxiation. In several SCBA-related deaths, degraded masks were found affixed to the faces of victims while their equipment continued to supply air.
In two of four realistic living-room fire scenarios tested by NIST, "lenses exhibited bubbling and loss of visual acuity, as well as severe deformation, and, in one case, a hole," the NIST team says.
The researchers tested five models of SCBA facepieces, each from a different manufacturer. In all cases of lens degradation, the damage was due to temperatures and heat fluxes that exceeded performance limits of polycarbonate, the lens material commonly used in SCBA for fire fighters.
"Our results do not suggest, in any way, that that lens failures are due to the manufacturers," explains NIST's Nelson Bryner, a co-author of the report. "All the lenses tested were consistent with requirements specified in standards."
In the United States, SCBA makers must submit their products for certification testing before they can be sold. Certification requires passing the "heat and flame test" specified in a standard by the National Fire Protection Association. Citing the conclusions of other researchers, the NIST team notes that this test is conducted at high temperatures, but "it does not capture the conditions of temperature, heat flux and duration that a firefighter might experience."
The townhouse fire experiments will inform efforts to improve the match between standard requirements and real-life conditions. Until now, these efforts have been hampered by lack of information regarding the high-temperature and high-heat-flow performance of polycarbonate lenses and the actual fire-scene conditions that have resulted in lens failures.
The NIST experiments were conducted in two-story townhouses in Bensenville, a suburb northwest of Chicago, in cooperation with the Bensenville and Chicago Fire Departments and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. In each of the four "furnished-house experiments," the conditions were nearly identical, save for the location of polyurethane heads outfitted with a SCBA facepiece and controlled variations in fire exposure conditions, adjusted, for example, by opening and closing of doors and windows at specified times.
Rooms were equipped with devices to record temperatures rapidly at regular intervals between ceiling and floor. Facepieces also were equipped with sensors, on the inside and the outside of the lenses and in the immediately surrounding space. A gauge to measure heat flow, or flux, was positioned next to the facepieces.
The most devastating damage occurred in a scenario akin to one in which a firefighter would enter a burning living room from a front porch. The living room fire smoldered for five minutes after ignition. Opening the front door literally breathed life into the smoldering fire. The rush of heat from the now blazing living room transformed a relatively cool environment on the porch into an inferno. The SCBA lens's exterior surface temperature reached 280 degrees Celsius (536 degrees Fahrenheit), about the midpoint of the range of published polycarbonate melt temperatures. The lens developed a significant hole, according to the NIST report.
"The next step," the NIST researchers write, "is to identify the exposure limit just before thermal degradation occurs. Data on the limits of the equipment would be valuable information for the fire service to help prevent further injuries and fatalities related to SCBA equipment failure."
* A Mensch, G Braga and N Bryner, Fire Exposures of Fire Fighter Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus Facepiece Lenses. NIST Technical Note 1724, Nov. 2011. The report can be accessed at www.nist.gov/manuscript-publication-search.cfm?pub_id=909917.
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New NIST Web Site Features Fire Safety for the Holidays
Fire researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) remind us that proper care of a cut Christmas tree is important to retaining high moisture content in the tree’s needles to prevent accidental ignition and rapid flame spread.
And if you need any convincing, they have posted a series of cautionary videos, along with background information, on an updated Website, Fire Safety for the Holidays.
The most telling is a side-by-side comparison showing what happens to a properly maintained tree and a dry tree after they are exposed to a source of ignition. Within 15 seconds, the dry tree is engulfed in flames; after 90 seconds, all the needles have burned away and only the tree trunk and portions of some of the larger branches are intact. In contrast, needles of the properly maintained (wet) tree ignite and burn locally, but the flame does not spread.
The bottom line: A tree with dry needles can readily ignite and generate heat release rates that are capable of causing catastrophic fires in residential rooms. Videos can be downloaded from the site at www.fire.nist.gov/tree_fire.htm. Watch the side-by-side video on NIST’s YouTube channel: http://youtu.be/AZk4vIXCnc8.
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Elusive Ultrafine Indoor Air Contaminants Yield to NIST Analysis
Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) spent 75 days on the job carrying out some very important homework—measurements in a "typical dwelling" of the release, distribution and fate of particles almost as tiny as the diameter of a single DNA molecule. Particles ranging in size from 100 nanometers down to 2.5 nanometers that were emitted by gas and electric stoves, hair dryers, power tools and candles were tracked and analyzed.*
Monitoring such tiny particles was made possible by NIST advances in measurement capabilities. Measurements were carried out in weeks of experiments at a 340-square-meter (1,500-square-feet) test house on the NIST campus in Gaithersburg, Md. The researchers used the data to develop a model for predicting changes in the size and distribution of so-called ultrafine particles (technically, particles smaller than 100 nanometers) discharged by tools, appliances and other sources.
The measurements and model will further efforts to explain the dynamics of ultrafine particles, an area of growing interest among environmental and health researchers. They also will advance work to develop accurate and reliable methods for determining how changes in heating and cooling systems, often done to reduce energy consumption, will affect indoor environments.
"If we can understand and predict the dynamics of these extremely small indoor air contaminants, designers and equipment manufacturers can avoid potential negative impacts on the environment inside homes and buildings and may even devise ways to improve conditions and save energy at the same time," explains NIST engineer Andrew Persily.
Utrafine particles are produced naturally—by forest fires and volcanoes, for example—as well as by internal combustion engines, power plants and many other human-made sources. Although ever present in outdoor and indoor environments, ultrafine particles have eluded detection, and are not subject to federal or state air quality standards. However, particles with nanoscale dimensions have been associated with a variety of human health problems—especially heart, lung and blood disorders.
Because we spend most of our time indoors, however, the bulk of human exposure to ultrafine particles occurs in homes and buildings. Typically, releases of the tiny particles occur in periodic bursts—during cooking or hair drying, perhaps—but airborne concentrations during these episodes can greatly exceed outdoor levels, according to the NIST team.
The researchers measured the airborne concentrations of ultrafine particles at regular intervals after they were emitted by gas and electric stoves, candles, hair dryers and power tools. With their recently enhanced capabilities, the team could measure particles about four times smaller than in previous studies of indoor air contaminants.
Tests were conducted with the house central fan either on or off, which made a major difference in the behavior of ultrafine particles. With the fan off, these very small particles collide with each other and coagulate—or combine—during the first 2.5 minutes following a blast of ultrafine particles from an appliance or tool. In the process, they form successively larger particles, decreasing airborne concentrations of particles. As particles grow larger, they tend to settle on surfaces more quickly.
With the central fan recirculating air, ultrafine particles tend, in roughly equal proportions, to coagulate or settle on surfaces. Under both fan conditions, ventilation accounted for the removal of no more than about 5 percent of ultrafine particles.
Tests also revealed that for many indoor sources, such as stovetop cooking with gas, more than 90 percent of the particles emitted were smaller than 10 nanometers. In turn, emissions of smaller particles result in higher airborne concentrations that dissipate primarily through coagulation.
NIST guest researcher Donghyun Rim is lead author of the new article. Co-authors are Lance Wallace and Persily, both of NIST, and Jung-il Choi, of Yonsei University, South Korea.
*D. Rim, L. Wallace, A. Persily and J. Choi, Evolution of ultrafine particle size distributions following indoor episodic releases: Relative importance of coagulation, deposition and ventilation. Aerosol Science and Technology. Posted online Nov. 15, 2011. DOI 10.1080/02786826.2011.639317. Available online at www.tandfonline.com/action/showAxaArticles?journalCode=uast20.
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New NIST Biometric Data Standard Adds DNA, Footmarks and Enhanced Fingerprint Descriptions
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published a revised biometric standard in November, 2011, that vastly expands the type and amount of information that forensic scientists can share across their international networks to identify victims or solve crimes. Biometric data is a digital or analog representation of physical attributes that can be used to uniquely identify us.
The new standard is the Data Format for the Interchange of Fingerprint, Facial & Other Biometric Information and is referenced as "ANSI/NIST-ITL 1-2011, NIST Special Publication 500-290." Earlier versions have been used throughout the UnitedStates and six continents to provide a common language and format for the exchange of biometric data and associated metadata—information about the biometric characteristics or how it was collected. The Department of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, the government of Argentina and others are already in the process of adopting the new standard.
"The additions to this version of the standard represent a great leap forward," said NIST Biometrics Standards Coordinator Brad Wing. The capabilities of the system have been greatly expanded from that of matching a fingerprint, facial image or iris sample collected directly from a live person and comparing it to samples previously stored in a database. New types of biometric data—DNA and plantars/footprints—were added as well as updates to existing record types.
This is the first international standard for the exchange of DNA data. DNA can be used for criminal case identification, such as in a rape case, or in a forensic setting to identify victims, such as those in a plane crash, where it is necessary to have an original DNA sample from the victim, or establish kinship by taking DNA samples from purported relatives. The standard handles both types of cases.
Another new addition is the Extended Feature Set (EFS) for forensic examiner markups that allow for marking and exchanging a very rich set of latent ridge print—fingerprints, palmprints and footprints—information that ensures analysts use the same terminology, references and procedures to describe details such as pores and linear discontinuities. Also new is the capability to share images of all body parts and anthropometric markups of face and iris images.
The standard now defines how to specify and share the geo-positioning coordinates of biometric sample collection. Information concerning the circumstances surrounding the collection of the biometric data can also be included. This includes pictures of items found around the crime scene and audio and video clips. Data handling logs show chain-of-custody of the biometric data for legal purposes, including the steps necessary to prepare the biometric sample for processing in a matching system.
NIST biometric research contributed heavily to the standard. In addition to part of the DNA work, the standard uses a NIST-developed compact format to exchange iris images,* and the Mobile ID Best Practice Recommendations.** (See the Nov. 3, 2009 NIST Tech Beat article, "NIST Test Proves 'The Eyes Have It' for ID Verification" at www.nist.gov/public_affairs/tech-beat/tb20091103.cfm#id, and the Aug. 25, 2009 article, "Who Are You? Mobile ID Devices Find Out Using NIST Guidelines" at www.nist.gov/public_affairs/tech-beat/tb20090825.cfm#mobile.)
Researchers already are at work on new additions to the standard, including voice biometrics, traumatic injury imaging and analysis (such as bitemarks), dental forensics (used to identify persons when DNA is not readily available, such as with skeletons) and conformance testing to the standard specifications.
NIST is involved with many standards development organizations (SDO), but the Information Technology Laboratory that produced this standard is NIST's only SDO, and is certified by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The standard is developed according to a consensus process and this update involved almost 70 voting organizations participating in 16 working groups over a two-year period.
The new biometric standard may be found at: www.nist.gov/customcf/get_pdf.cfm?pub_id=910136.
*NIST Interagency Report 7629 Supplement One, IREX I: Performance of Iris Recognition Algorithms on Standard Images, January 12, 2010, http://www.nist.gov/itl/iad/ig/irexi.cfm.
** NIST Special Publication 500-280 Mobile ID Device Best Practice Recommendation Version 1.0, July 2009, http://www.nist.gov/customcf/get_pdf.cfm?pub_id=903169.
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NCNR Offers Financial Assistance for Neutron Science Research
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is soliciting proposals for multiyear financial assistance awards to support research and development at the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR). The awards of up to $3 million per year for up to 5 years are intended to assist visiting researchers at the NCNR, support the development of new instrumentation for neutron research, support collaborative research with NIST scientists, and to conduct other outreach and educational activities that advance the use of neutrons by U.S. academic and industrial scientists.
One of the leading neutron research centers in the world, the NCNR is a national user facility serving scientists and engineers from industry, universities and government agencies. The facility supports a wide range of neutron-based research tools, from activation analysis used for detecting trace levels of chemicals in the environment to low-energy "cold" neutron scattering used to study the structures of advanced materials from proteins to superconductors.
NIST expects to have up to $3 million available this fiscal year for first-year funding for the NCNR Comprehensive Grant Program. Funding for additional years of multiyear projects is contingent on project performance and the availability of funds. NIST anticipates funding from one to three awards this year.
Proposals will be evaluated on the qualifications and experience of the principal investigator and staff; the quality of the proposed research and development plan and its potential impact on neutron scattering science, particularly in the areas of macromolecular science, condensed matter physics and chemistry; the quality of the plan with respect to providing research assistance to U.S. neutron researchers using the NCNR facilities; and the quality of the plan with respect to integrating the proposer's staff effectively into the activities of the NCNR facility.
All proposals to the NCNR Comprehensive Grant Program must be received by NIST no later than 3 p.m. Eastern Time, on Thursday, March 15, 2012.
Proposals may be submitted either online at Grants.gov (www.grants.gov) or on paper. To submit through Grants.gov, search by either Funding Opportunity Number 2012-NIST-NCNR-01 or under Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 11.609 (Measurement and Engineering Research and Standards). For further information or questions regarding online proposal submissions, contact Christopher Hunton by phone at (301) 975-5718 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To submit on paper, request an application package from Tanya Burke, National Institute of Standards and Technology, NCNR Comprehensive Grant Program, 100 Bureau Drive, Mail Stop 6100, Gaithersburg, MD 20899-6100, or phone (301) 975-4711.
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NIST Requests Funding Proposals for Projects in Precision Measurement
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is soliciting proposals for the next round of funding in its long-running Precision Measurement Grant Program (PMGP). The program provides support for experiments to make novel, high-precision measurements of important physical properties or fundamental constants of nature.
Begun in 1970, the PMGP grew out of NIST's core mission to develop state-of-the-art measurement technologies and scientific data to support U.S. industry, commerce and research. The grants have primarily funded work at universities and colleges in basic measurement related research. Typical PMGP projects have included precise measurements of variations in local gravity, improved measurements of the fine-structure constant (fundamental to quantum mechanics and electrodynamics), and tests of charge-parity-time (CPT) symmetry (one of the core tenets of physics.) The program also is intended to make it possible for researchers to pursue new ideas for which other sources of support may be difficult to find.
PMGP projects may run for up to 3 years, funded at $50,000 per year. NIST anticipates awarding up to $100,000 this year to fund the first year of two new projects. Funding for additional years is contingent on satisfactory performance and the availability of funds.
PMGP proposals are evaluated on the importance of the proposed research and its relationship to the NIST mission and the institution's ongoing work, the feasibility of the proposed project and the qualifications of the proposer.
The application process includes the submission of an abbreviated proposal by 5 p.m. Eastern time, February 2, 2012. Selected finalists must then submit a full proposal by 5 p.m. Eastern time, May 3, 2012. Final selections are expected to be made in August 2012.
The initial abbreviated proposals may be submitted on paper to Peter J. Mohr, National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST Precision Measurement Grant Program, 100 Bureau Drive, Mail Stop 8420, Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8420, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full details of the program, including eligibility rules, required documentation, the proposal process and other matters, are in NIST's Announcement of Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) for the Precision Measurement Grant Program, available from Grants.gov at http://www07.grants.gov/search/search.do?&mode=VIEW&oppId=132393 or the NIST Website at http://www.nist.gov/pml/div684/fcdc/upload/2012-PMGP-FFO-FINAL.pdf. The Funding Opportunity Number (used at Grants.gov) for this solicitation is 2012-NIST-PMGP-01, and it is indexed in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance under CFDA Number 11.609. Proposers without Internet access may obtain the standard application package upon request to Gail Newrock, National Institute of Standards and Technology, PMGP, 100 Bureau Drive, Mail Stop 8420, Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8420, phone: (301) 975-3200.
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Two at NIST Are Named IEEE Fellows for 2011
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)'s George Arnold and John Suehle have been named fellows of the IEEE, one of the world's major professional organizations dedicated to the advancement of technology.*
Arnold, the National Coordinator for Smart Grid Interoperability, was cited by the IEEE "for leadership in architecture and protocols for the electric grid and telecommunication networks." The citation also recognizes the work Arnold did at Bell Laboratories on protocols for automating the operations and maintenance of telecommunications networks as well as for leading standards development efforts for next-generation networks.
John Suehle, the leader of NIST's CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) and Novel Devices Group, was cited "for contributions to the understanding of thin gate dielectric films." The citation also recognizes Suehle's contributions to semiconductor device reliability over the past quarter-century. His work has helped in projecting the life of integrated circuits, especially as their thickness is scaled down.
Fellowship is conferred by the IEEE Board of Directors upon a person with an outstanding record of accomplishments in any of the IEEE fields of interest. The total number of fellows selected in any one year cannot exceed one-tenth of one percent of the total voting membership. This year, 321 individuals were named fellows out of 385,000 members in 160 countries.
*For more information on the IEEE and its fellowships awards, visit www.ieee.org.
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