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Tech Beat - April 17, 2012

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Editor: Michael Baum
Date created: April 17, 2012
Date Modified: April 17, 2012 
Contact: inquiries@nist.gov

Two New Advanced Laboratories Open at NIST Boulder and JILA

Two new advanced laboratory buildings for high-precision science and measurements have officially opened in Boulder, Colo., providing upgraded facilities to support technology innovation and economic growth as well as the training of future scientists.

new PML lab
The new Precision Measurement Laboratory at the NIST facility in Boulder, Colo.
Credit: Copyright Christina Kiffney Photography
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Federal, state and local government officials, university leaders, and Nobel laureates were among those attending the April 13, 2012, dedication ceremonies and tours at the new Precision Measurement Laboratory (PML) on the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) campus in Boulder and at the new X-Wing at JILA, a joint venture of NIST and the University of Colorado (CU) Boulder. JILA is located on the CU-Boulder campus.

Both new laboratories tightly control environmental conditions such as vibration and temperature, as is required for cutting-edge research with lasers, atomic clocks, nanotechnology and other areas of study at NIST and JILA. Both new buildings also have capabilities for micro- and nanofabrication of custom research devices. The original NIST-Boulder and JILA laboratories were built in the 1950s and 1960s.

Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher cut the ribbon to officially open the PML, which will house some of NIST's best-known experiments and technologies, including NIST-F1, the U.S. civilian standard atomic clock.

"This laboratory is at the heart of making sure that NIST Boulder has the capabilities it needs to carry out its critical mission," Gallagher said. "The work that's done here is central to the role of NIST. The work done here on atomic clocks, on voltage standards, on quantum computing, on detectors—this is the essence of NIST's role to define and implement a system of measurement to the benefit of the United States. And it's a mission that is as fresh today as it was in 1901 when this agency was first founded. So I think our best is still to come, and it's exciting to know we'll have a home like this in which to do it."

Stella Fiotes, NIST's chief facilities management officer, noted that planning, design and construction of the PML required six years of sustained leadership and collaboration to ensure completion on time, within the budget, and with a strong safety record. "This beautiful facility provides a dramatic improvement over the existing facilities located on the NIST-Boulder campus," Fiotes said.

JILA ribbon cutting
Ribbon cutting to dedicate the new JILA X-Wing addition at the University of Colorado Boulder. Left to right: Tom O'Brian, chief of the NIST Quantum Physics Division; Philip DiStefano, Chancellor of the University of Colorado Boulder; NIST Director Patrick Gallagher; and Eric Cornell, JILA Department Chair and Nobel Laureate.
Credit: Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado
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At the JILA ceremony on the CU-Boulder campus, Gallagher said the new X-Wing will deepen and refresh NIST's productive partnership with the university. He noted that JILA supports NIST efforts to promote technology transfer by generating new measurement tools and training young innovators who go on to advance measurement science, found high-tech companies and win Nobel prizes.

"JILA started out, frankly, as a unique experiment 50 years ago, a pioneering partnership bringing together federal scientists and university researchers within the same organization," Gallagher said. "It's been an experiment that has had remarkable success, beyond even the original vision of the founders. It's been so successful, in fact, it has served as a model for all other successful university/government partnerships, not just at NIST, but also at a number of other agencies and universities."

JILA/NIST Fellow and Nobel laureate Eric Cornell, who served as master of ceremonies for the X-Wing dedication, noted that JILA had outgrown its original building. "JILA was a victim of its own success. We really needed to expand, we really needed to modernize, we really needed the X-Wing," Cornell said.

For more information about the PML, see the fact sheet at: http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/factsheet/pmlboulder-brochure.cfm.

A CU news release about the JILA X-Wing, as well as videos and fact sheets, is available at: http://colorado.edu/news/series/jila-joint-institute-cu-and-nist.

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

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NIST/UMass Study Finds Evidence Nanoparticles May Increase Plant DNA Damage

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) have provided the first evidence that engineered nanoparticles are able to accumulate within plants and damage their DNA. In a recent paper,* the team led by NIST chemist Bryant C. Nelson showed that under laboratory conditions, cupric oxide nanoparticles have the capacity to enter plant root cells and generate many mutagenic DNA base lesions.

radish growth
Graphic showing that increasing exposure to cupric oxide bulk particles (BPs) and nanoparticles (NPs) by radish plants also increases the impact on growth with NPs showing the largest impact. From left to right, the exposure concentrations are 0; 100 parts per million (ppm) BPs; 1,000 ppm BPs; 100 ppm NPs; and 1,000 ppm NPs (showing a severely stunted plant).
Credit: H. Wang, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
View hi-resolution image

The team tested the man-made, ultrafine particles between 1 and 100 nanometers in size on a human food crop, the radish, and two species of common groundcovers used by grazing animals, perennial and annual ryegrass. This research is part of NIST's work to help characterize the potential environmental, health and safety (EHS) risks of nanomaterials, and develop methods for identifying and measuring them.

Cupric oxide (also known as copper (II) oxide or CuO) is a compound that has been used for many years as a pigment for coloring glass and ceramics, as a polish for optics, and as a catalyst in the manufacture of rayon. Cupric oxide also is a strong conductor of electric current, a property enhanced at the nanoscale level, which makes the nanoparticle form useful to semiconductor manufacturers.

Because cupric oxide is an oxidizing agent—a reactive chemical that removes electrons from other compounds—it may pose a risk. Oxidation caused by metal oxides has been shown to induce DNA damage in certain organisms. What Nelson and his colleagues wanted to learn was whether nanosizing cupric oxide made the generation and accumulation of DNA lesions more or less likely in plants. If the former, the researchers also wanted to find out if nanosizing had any substantial effects on plant growth and health.

To obtain the answers, the NIST/UMass researchers first exposed radishes and the two ryegrasses to both cupric oxide nanoparticles and larger sized cupric oxide particles (bigger than 100 nanometers) as well as to simple copper ions. They then used a pair of highly sensitive spectrographic techniques** to evaluate the formation and accumulation of DNA base lesions and to determine if and how much copper was taken up by the plants.

For the radishes, twice as many lesions were induced in plants exposed to nanoparticles as were in those exposed to the larger particles. Additionally, the cellular uptake of copper from the nanoparticles was significantly greater than the uptake of copper from the larger particles. The DNA damage profiles for the ryegrasses differed from the radish profiles, indicating that nanoparticle-induced DNA damage is dependent on the plant species and on the nanoparticle concentration.

Finally, the researchers showed that cupric oxide nanoparticles had a significant effect on growth, stunting the development of both roots and shoots in all three plant species tested. The nanoparticle concentrations used in this study were higher than those likely to be encountered by plants under a typical soil exposure scenario.

"To our knowledge, this is first evidence that there could be a 'nano-based effect' for cupric oxide in the environment where size plays a role in the increased generation and accumulation of numerous mutagenic DNA lesions in plants," Nelson says.

Next up for Nelson and his colleagues is a similar study looking at the impact of titanium dioxide nanoparticles—such as those used in many sunscreens—on rice plants.

* D.H. Atha, H. Wang, E.J. Petersen, D. Cleveland, R.D. Holbrook, P. Jaruga, M. Dizdaroglu, B. Xing and B.C. Nelson. Copper oxide nanoparticle mediated DNA damage in terrestrial plant models. Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 46 (3): pages 1819-1827 (2012), DOI: 10.1021/es202660k.
** Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to detect base lesions and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) to measure copper uptake.

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

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Iris Recognition Report Evaluates 'Needle in Haystack' Search Capability

Identifying people by acquiring pictures of their eyes is becoming easier, according to a new report* from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). NIST researchers evaluated the performance of iris recognition software from 11 different organizations and found that some techniques produced very rapid results—though this speed was often at the cost of accuracy.

According to a NIST report, software that identifies people based on scans of the iris, the 'colored' part of the eye that surrounds the pupil, can produce very rapid results, but this speed is often at the cost of accuracy.
Credit: Talbott/NIST
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Iris recognition, a form of biometric identification based on noncontact imaging of the complex texture in an individual's iris, has been purported to be both fast and accurate—claims that had not been validated until now. The Iris Exchange (IREX) III report is the first public and independent comparison of commercially available algorithms that use iris recognition for the challenging task of finding an individual match within a large database of potential identities. Previous published studies only used single algorithms or considered "one-to-one" verification, in which an individual claims an identity and the software then attempts to confirm whether the claim matches a specific record.

NIST evaluated 92 different iris recognition algorithms from nine private companies and two university labs, all of which submitted software to an open competition held by NIST. The task was to identify individuals from a database of eye images taken from more than 2.2 million people.

"If, for example, you are trying to pick out a fugitive who is trying to cross a national border, you need to know your software can identify that person from among millions of records," says Patrick Grother, a scientist in NIST's Information Access Division. "This ability to pick out a 'needle in a haystack' quickly and accurately is crucial, and we found some algorithms can search a haystack thousands of times larger than others. This is important because often there is no corresponding record, no needle to be found."

Among the results: Accuracy varied substantially across the algorithms the NIST team tested. Success rates ranged between 90 and 99 percent among the algorithms, meaning that no software was perfect, and some produced as many as 10 times more errors than others. Also, the tests found that while some algorithms would be fast enough to run through a dataset equivalent to the size of the entire U.S. population in less than 10 seconds using a typical computer, there could be limitations to their accuracy. A related NIST report showed that accuracy could be improved if operators control image collection more tightly during acquisition, thereby obtaining better quality iris images.

"When combined with the feedback that this study provides to the industry and the use of the iris in combination with other biometrics, the findings will push accuracy toward 100 percent," Grother says. Grother adds that the new findings should be useful to policy makers, who are increasingly incorporating iris recognition in official systems in places as far-flung as India, Mexico and Indonesia, as well as the United States and Canada.

* Links to reports are available at http://iris.nist.gov/irex

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

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JILA Superradiant Laser Is 'A New Way of Lasing'

Physicists at JILA have demonstrated a novel "superradiant" laser that works on a subtly different principle than ordinary lasers. In principle, the new JILA laser could be 100 to 1,000 times more stable than the best conventional visible lasers. This superior stability could boost the performance of the most advanced atomic clocks and related technologies such as communications and navigation systems.

Described in the April 5, 2012, issue of Nature,* the JILA laser prototype relies on a million rubidium atoms doing a sort of synchronized line dance to produce a dim beam of deep red laser light. JILA is a joint institute of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado Boulder (CU).

An ordinary laser relies on millions of particles of light (photons) ricocheting back and forth between two mirrors, striking atoms in the lasing material and generating copies of themselves to build up intense light. Photons with synchronized wave patterns leak out of the mirrored cavity to form a laser beam. The laser frequency, or color, wobbles slightly because the mirrors are vibrating due to either the motion of atoms in the mirrors or environmental disturbances—which can be as subtle as people walking past the room or cars driving near the building.

The new JILA laser, says physicist James Thompson, is based on a powerful radio technique called phased arrays. "If you line up lots of radio antennas that each emit an oscillating electric field, you can get all their electric fields to add up to make a really good directional antenna. In the same way, the individual atoms [in the JILA laser] spontaneously form something like a phased array of antennas to give you a very directional laser beam."

The atoms in the JILA laser are constantly energizing and emitting synchronized photons, but on the average, very few—less than one photon, in fact—stick around between the mirrors. Nearly all photons escape before they have a chance to become scrambled by the mirrors and disrupt the synchronized atoms—thus averting the very effect that causes laser frequency to wobble in a normal laser. The atoms ordinarily would emit just one photon per second, but their correlated action boosts that rate 10,000-fold—making the light superradiant, Thompson says. This "stimulated emission" meets the definition of a laser (Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation).

"This superradiant laser is really, really dim—about a million times weaker than a laser pointer," Thompson says. "But it is much brighter than one would expect from the ordinary uncoordinated emissions from individual atoms."

The new approach might be used in the future to improve the best lasers developed at NIST as much as 1,000-fold. The extraordinary stability of the superradiant laser can be transferred by using it as part of a feedback system to "lock" a normal laser's output, which in turn could be used in the most advanced atomic clocks to induce the atomic oscillations that are the pendulum ticks of super-accurate clocks. The added stability allows for a better match to the atoms' exact frequency, significantly boosting the precision of the clock. The improvement would extend to atomic clock-based technologies such as GPS, optical communications, advanced geodetic surveys and astronomy.

For more, see the NIST April 4 news story, "JILA Team Demonstrates 'A New Way of Lasing': A 'Superradiant' Laser" at www.nist.gov/pml/div689/superradiant-040412.cfm.

* J.G. Bohnet, Z. Chen, J.M. Weiner, D. Meiser, M.J. Holland and J.K. Thompson. A steady state superradiant laser with fewer than one intracavity photon. Nature. Apr. 5, 2012.

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

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X-Ray Probe Finds New Organic Transistors Do Well in Hot Water

Materials scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), working with an international research team, have helped prove the stability of a novel—and rugged—thin-film membrane that could prove key to a new class of sterilizable, flexible organic electronics for medical applications.

The work at the NIST low-energy X-ray beam line at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) in Brookhaven, N.Y., supported an international team led by researchers from the University of Tokyo and including participants from the Japan Science and Technology Agency, Princeton University, the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research, Hiroshima University and Nippon Kayaku Co., Ltd. of Tokyo.*

Recent years have seen significant advances in organic microelectronics that replace rigid crystalline materials such as silicon with flexible polymeric materials. Engineers are eyeing a long list of potential applications, such as lightweight computer displays that could be printed on a film and rolled up or folded. But as the study's authors point out, flexible organic circuits also could have broad application in medical devices—especially implantable devices, like soft pacemakers.

But such devices would have to be sterilized at high temperatures, and organic electronics that don't break down under such temperatures have been hard to make. A particular problem is the all-important "gate insulation" layer in an organic transistor, which has to be extremely thin—to hold down the operating voltage to a reasonable level—while maintaining electrical integrity under heating. When heated to sterilizing temperatures, the thin films have tended to develop multiple "pinholes" that wreck performance.

To solve this, the Tokyo-based team proposed a novel gate material** that "self-assembles" into an ultrathin single layer of densely packed linear molecules that line up at a slight angle to the surface rather like the hairs on a retriever. The thickness of this self-assembled monolayer (SAM) can be as small as 2 nanometers, according to the research team.

Making accurate structural measurements of such a thin film is difficult. To check the molecular orientation and thermal stability of the SAM, samples from before and after heat treatment were examined on the NIST beamline using a technique called "near-edge X-ray absorption fine-structure spectroscopy" (NEXAFS). The technique essentially detects chemical bonds both at the surface of a sample and in the interior, and is extremely sensitive—capable of telling the difference between a single and double carbon bond in a molecule, for instance. Pinholes in the SAM are visible because NEXAFS sees through them to the underlying substrate. The NEXAFS measurements demonstrated that the new SAM thin films maintained their stability and integrity at temperatures in excess of 150º Celsius. This is believed to be the first time such high thermal stability has been observed in such a thin film.

For more details, see the Brookhaven National Laboratory news announcement, "The World's First Sterilizable Flexible Organic Transistor," at www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/pubaf/pr/PR_display.asp?prID=1396.

* K. Kuribara, H. Wang, N. Uchiyama, K. Fukuda, T. Yokota, U. Zschieschang, C. Jaye, D. Fischer, H. Klauk, T. Yamamoto, K. Takimiya, M. Ikeda, H. Kuwabara, T. Sekitani, Y-L. Loo and T. Someya. Organic transistors with high thermal stability for medical applications. Nature Communications. 3, 723. Mar. 6, 2012. doi:10.1038/ncomms1721
** alkylphosphonic acids

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

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May Workshop Examines Impact of Advanced Imaging Technology on Tissue Engineering Research

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in cooperation with the Multi-Agency Tissue Engineering Science (MATES) working group, is sponsoring a two-day workshop on imaging challenges and solutions in the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, beginning May 31, 2012, at the NIST laboratories in Gaithersburg, Md.

Researchers have made a variety of advances in their ability to image microscopic objects ranging from "super-resolution" algorithms that produce sharper images than would normally be possible with the given optics to techniques such as photo-acoustic imaging that combine optical absorption and ultrasonic waves to look at specific features inside living tissues. The workshop on Functional Imaging for Regenerative Medicine will explore how cutting-edge imaging techniques can advance the equally fast-growing field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine (TERM). This workshop will, for the first time, bring together leading experts in the regenerative medicine and imaging communities to encourage collaboration and to develop new ideas.

The workshop aims to accelerate development and adoption of advanced imaging methodologies and tools by identifying current needs of tissue engineers, from the molecular to the macroscopic scales, and consider approaches to meet those needs. The workshop will focus on functional, noninvasive methods appropriate for in vitro and in vivo TERM work.

Session Topics will include "Cellular Function in vitro: High Resolution Single Cell Imaging," "Cellular Function in vivo: In Vivo Cell Imaging," "Tissue Grafts: Macroscopic Imaging" and "Regenerating Whole Organs: Whole Body Imaging."

Additional information on the Functional Imaging for Regenerative Medicine Workshop and the agenda are available at www.nist.gov/mml/polymers/biomaterials/functional_imaging_regenerative_medicine_workshop.cfm. The online registration form is at www.fbcinc.com/e/NIST/FIRM/atreg1.aspx.

The MATES working group helps coordinate the activities of a broad range of federal agencies interested in research on tissue engineering. In addition to NIST, the agencies participating in MATES include the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Energy, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, the Naval Research Laboratory and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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

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Fifth Annual Health Information Security Conference Runs June 6-7

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is co-hosting the fifth annual Safeguarding Health Information: Building Assurance through HIPAA Security conference on June 6 and 7, 2012, at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. The conference is hosted in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security Rule specifies federal standards to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of protected health information in electronic record systems. The rule requires entities covered by HIPAA regulations, such as health care providers, health care plans and their business associates to implement and maintain administrative, physical and technical safeguards for their information systems.

The conference is an opportunity for HIPAA security rule implementers; security, privacy and compliance officers; assessment teams and audit staff in health care providers to explore current issues in health information security and to discuss practical strategies, tips and techniques for implementing the HIPAA Security Rule.

Specific sessions will cover a variety of current topics, including updates on HHS health information privacy and security initiatives, OCR's enforcement of health information privacy and security activities, integrating security safeguards into health IT, safeguards to secure mobile devices, and removing sensitive data from the Internet.

NIST provides ongoing expertise in risk management, security and standards for federal agencies and has been involved in health information technology research since 1994. NIST is responsible for accelerating the development and harmonization of standards and developing conformance test tools for health information technology.

OCR enforces the HIPAA Privacy Rule, which protects the privacy of individually identifiable health information; the HIPAA Security Rule; the confidentiality provisions of the Patient Safety Rule, which protect identifiable information being used to analyze patient safety events and improve patient safety; and the Breach Notification regulations requiring HIPAA-covered entities and their business associates to notify individuals when their health information is breached.

For those who cannot attend in person, the conference is being webcast. Registration instructions, current agenda and conference logistics are available at www.nist.gov/itl/csd/hipaasec.cfm.

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

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NIST Proposes Update to Digital Signature Standard

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has announced proposed changes to a standard that specifies how to implement digital signatures, which can be used to ensure the integrity of electronic documents, such as wills and contracts, as well as the identity of the signer.

These proposed changes to the Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 186-3, known as the Digital Signature Standard, were posted for public comment on April 10, 2012. First published in 1994 and revised several times since then, the standard provides a means of guaranteeing authenticity in the digital world by means of operations based on complex math that are all but impossible to "forge". Updates to the standard are still necessary as technology changes.

The proposed revisions provide clarification on how to implement the digital signature algorithms approved in the standard: the Digital Signature Algorithm (DSA), the Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA) and the Rivest-Shamir-Adelman algorithm (RSA). Included in the proposed revision is allowing the use of additional, approved random number generators, which are used to generate the cryptographic keys used for the generation and verification of digital signatures.

The comment period on the proposal is open until May 25, 2012. Both FIPS 186-3 and a separate four-page document outlining the proposed changes are available at http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/PubsDrafts.html. Electronic comments may be sent to: fips_186-3_change_notice@nist.gov, with ''186-3 Change Notice'' in the subject line.

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

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New Business Plan, New Funding Help Baldrige Program Move Forward

The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (BPEP), managed for 25 years by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in collaboration with the private sector, has announced that it is transitioning to a new business model that will move the program from federal government funding to a self-sustaining operation. NIST will continue its leadership role in managing the program, but it will be funded through a combination of new fees together with expanded support from the private sector.

The Foundation for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award—the private 501(c) 3 organization that has supported BPEP for more than 20 years with contributions from the private sector— recently announced that it will fund the BPEP through fiscal year 2015 as the transition to the new business model takes place. The foundation will review the gift annually to determine any appropriate adjustments during the three-year period. The foundation also has initiated a new endowment fundraising campaign to ensure long-term sustainability.

“The Baldrige Program and the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence that it promotes offer our business, health care, nonprofit and educational institutions a proven path to becoming more competitive, more efficient and more successful in generating and sustaining positive outcomes,” says Thomas Schamberger, executive director of the foundation. “The need is greater now than ever to make Baldrige more accessible to the organizations and communities that need it throughout the country.”

The new business model focuses on expanding markets, strategic partners and customer relationships, with the goal of long-term sustainability and growth for the Baldrige Program and its partner, the newly formed Baldrige Enterprise which includes the Baldrige foundation, the Alliance for Performance Excellence—a body made up of the 35-plus state, local, regional and sector-specific Baldrige-based programs serving nearly all 50 states—and the American Society for Quality (ASQ).

New products, services and strategies will generate fee-based income and grow the customer base for the Baldrige Program and the Baldrige Enterprise. These include educational offerings for international quality experts and others, such as the in-depth Baldrige training currently provided only to Baldrige Award examiners; a fee-based alternative assessment that will provide organizations not eligible for a Baldrige Award with the high-quality organizational review given to Baldrige Award applicants; and sponsorships of exhibits and activities at Baldrige events such as the annual Quest for Excellence conference.

Additionally, the BPEP plans to reduce costs through the elimination of operations that fall outside its core mission, streamlining the rest and shifting some activities to the Baldrige Enterprise partners. More coordination and integration among these partners’ activities will achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness, with the first step being new Baldrige Award eligibility rules that encourage potential applicants to first seek their state or regional award.

The BPEP raises awareness about the importance of performance excellence in driving the U.S. and global economy; provides organizational assessment tools and criteria; educates leaders in businesses, schools, health care organizations, and government and nonprofit organizations about the practices of national role models; and recognizes them by honoring them with the only Presidential Award for performance excellence.

Named after Malcolm Baldrige, the 26th Secretary of Commerce, the Baldrige Award was established by Congress in 1987. The award promotes excellence in organizational performance, recognizes the achievements and results of U.S. organizations, and publicizes successful performance strategies. The award is not given for specific products or services. Since 1988, 90 organizations have received Baldrige Awards.

More information on the BPEP transition plan is available at www.nist.gov/baldrige/transition/index.cfm.

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

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NIST Advisory Committee Issues 2011 Annual Report

The Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology (VCAT) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has sent its 2011 annual report to Congress.

The VCAT is the agency's primary private-sector advisory group. The committee report concludes that NIST is the agency best positioned to support the U.S. advanced manufacturing agenda. The report also highlights NIST's significant progress in major programmatic and operational activities, including standards policy, measurement services, safety, and the NIST reorganization. It endorses NIST's strategic planning process and supports the president's fiscal year 2013 budget increases for NIST, noting that the requested increases to its laboratory programs will increase capabilities at NIST as well as create improved partnership opportunities with industry and academia, enabling NIST to interact more effectively across the innovation ecosystem.

The report also highlights the VCAT's recommendations for features that would be desirable to a national public safety communications network. NIST is engaged in the research supporting public safety communications and operates a test bed at its Boulder, Colo., campus.

The VCAT was established by Congress in 1988 to review and make recommendations on NIST's policies, organization, budget and programs to support the agency in its mission to promote and support U.S. technological innovation and industrial competitiveness. For the full text of the VCAT 2011 annual report, see www.nist.gov/director/vcat/upload/FINAL-2011-VCAT-Report.pdf.

The next NIST VCAT meeting will be held on June 19-20, 2012, in Gaithersburg, Md. VCAT meetings are open to the public. For more information, see www.nist.gov/director/vcat/.

Media Contact: Jennifer Huergo, jennifer.huergo@nist.gov, 301-975-6343

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NIST Team Receives Commerce Energy and Environmental Stewardship Award

A team from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has received the 2012 Energy and Environmental Stewardship award from the Department of Commerce for the design and installation of an array of solar panels. The awards recognize outstanding “green” achievements in 13 different categories, including Renewable Energy.

illustration of solar array
Illustration of the solar array that powers NIST radio station WWVH on the island of Kauai, Hawaii.
Credit: Image by D. Okayama/K. Talbott
View hi-resolution image

The photovoltaic array was installed at WWVH in Kekaha, Hawaii, on the island of Kauai. The station is one of two NIST radio stations that disseminate the official U.S. time. The array was designed by Scott Burke, an electrical engineer in NIST’s Office of Facilities and Property Management’s Engineering, Maintenance and Support Services Division. Project manager Jack Schneider, contract specialist Jason Gerloff, and Dean Okayama, an electrical engineer at the radio station in Kauai, also supported the project.

The photovoltaic system generates 120 kW and offsets a significant amount of the station’s electricity needs, helping to reduce costs, as well as the use of polluting fuel oil (which must be imported to Kauai). According to the award application, the project also helps the station “achieve energy independence and maintain continuity of operations of a national critical system.”

Completed in November 2010, the array produced 205,655 kWh of electricity in its first year of operation. That translates into a cost savings of $82,262 and reduces the overall electrical demand of WWVH by approximately 20 percent. The system uses commercially available photovoltaic components grouped in modular sub-arrays, which provide flexibility for future expansion and an element of redundancy that would keep the system running even if one component were to fail, albeit at a reduced capacity.

This project, as well as the expansion of the number of photovoltaic arrays on NIST’s Gaithersburg, Md., campus, were supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Media Contact: Jennifer Huergo, jennifer.huergo@nist.gov, 301-975-6343

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