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Tech Beat - February 20, 2013

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Editor: Michael Baum
Date created: February 20, 2013
Date Modified: February 20, 2013 
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NIST, DOJ Form Commission to Develop Guidelines for Forensic Labs

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have announced the establishment of a National Commission on Forensic Science as part of a new initiative to strengthen and enhance the practice of forensic science.

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Credit: Marfot/Shutterstock

The National Commission on Forensic Science will be composed of approximately 30 members, bringing together forensic science service practitioners, academic researchers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and other relevant stakeholders to develop policy recommendations for the Attorney General. The commission will consider guidance on practices for federal, state and local forensic science laboratories developed by NIST-administered groups of forensic science practitioners and academic researchers.

The commission will have responsibility for developing guidance concerning the intersections between forensic science and the courtroom and developing policy recommendations, including uniform codes for professional responsibility and requirements for training and certification.

Read more in the NIST-DOJ Feb. 15, 2013, news announcement, "Department of Justice and National Institute of Standards and Technology Announce Launch of National Commission on Forensic Science" at www.nist.gov/oles/doj-nist-forensic-science021513.cfm.

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

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NIST Captures Chemical Composition with Nanoscale Resolution

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland have demonstrated that a new spectroscopy technique* can simultaneously measure a material's topography and chemical composition with nanometer-scale spatial resolution.

AFM image
The sample (green/white) absorbs infrared laser light (purple) at wavelengths determined by its chemical composition, causing it to expand, which deflects the AFM cantilever. Bottom left: The AFM detects the height of two small polystyrene particles and a large polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) particle. Bottom right: The light is tuned to be absorbed only by PMMA but not by polystyrene. Combining the data and recording chemical images at different wavelengths produces a map of the surface’s topography and chemistry.
Credit: Centrone/NIST
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While infrared (IR) microscopy has been used since the 1950s to determine the chemical composition of materials, the spatial resolution of the technique has been limited to tens of micrometers; the new approach reported by NIST overcomes this limitation, improving the spatial resolution by a factor of about a thousand while retaining the high chemical specificity of IR spectroscopy.

The technique, called photothermal induced resonance (PTIR), was demonstrated first at the University of Paris-Sud. It uses a tunable infrared laser and an atomic force microscope (AFM) to extract chemical information with nanometer-scale spatial resolution. Every material has a unique infrared spectrum that acts like a chemical fingerprint, and as the laser scans across its surface, the sample at each point absorbs IR light at wavelengths that are determined by the chemical composition at that spot. The absorbed light heats the material, causing it to expand ever so slightly, which can be detected by the AFM. Repeatedly scanning the sample at different wavelengths reveals the sample's underlying chemical composition with a resolution determined by the AFM tip size and the sample's thermo-mechanical properties, resulting in a resolution many times smaller than IR microscopy, which depends on the wavelength of the light. Since the properties of nanomaterials depend on their shape, size and chemical composition, the team's work gives researchers a powerful tool to measure some of the key characteristics of their creations.

For the first time, the NIST scientists have demonstrated that PTIR can be used to generate a signal that is proportional to the energy absorbed by a material, a necessary step for accurately measuring the relative amounts of different chemicals within. The scientists fabricated samples with features having different chemical compositions as narrow as 100 nm wide and as thin as 40 nm. Using PTIR, they were able to distinguish the different chemical components down to the smallest features, suggesting that even better resolution may be achievable.

"What's extraordinary is that we can see that the chemical map is not necessarily correlated to the height or size of the physical features on the sample surface," says Andrea Centrone, a scientist from the University of Maryland's Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics working in NIST's Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology. "We get independent details of both the surface's physical features and its chemical properties. This result is unmatched by other near-field techniques."

According to Centrone, the results show that PTIR can dramatically exceed the resolution of IR microscopy. The research team is planning further experiments to extend the technique's capabilities and performance.

* B. Lahiri, G. Holland and A. Centrone. Chemical imaging beyond the diffraction limit: Experimental validation of the PTIR technique. Small, V. 9, Iss. 3, pp. 439-445. Feb. 11, 2013. DOI: 10.1002/smll.201200788.

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

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Green and Gold: NIST Boulder’s New Laboratory Achieves LEED Gold Certification

The new Precision Measurement Laboratory (PML) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) campus in Boulder, Colo., has received LEED Gold certification.

PML building in Boulder
The Precision Measurement Laboratory at the NIST facility in Boulder, Colo., has been awarded LEED Gold certification.
Credit: Copyright Christina Kiffney Photography
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LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) provides third-party verification of green buildings. Among their benefits, LEED-certified buildings are designed to lower operating costs, reduce waste, conserve energy and water and reduce 'greenhouse gas' emissions.

The PML, which opened last year,* achieved this distinction despite the need to meet many special requirements for its research mission. Stringent controls of the internal environment are required for precision measurements with lasers, atomic clocks and nanotechnology. For instance, mechanical equipment takes in outdoor air and provides filtration, heating and cooling, and humidity control. Air quality is maintained through the use of low-odor adhesives, sealants and paints, and carpet and floor materials that minimize release of chemicals and gases.

Special features that led to the LEED Gold rating include:

  • The overall building design is an estimated 37 percent more efficient than a standard building of the same size.
  • Water savings through low-flow fixtures achieve an estimated 42 percent reduction in water use, and vegetation is naturally irrigated by the ditch running alongside the building.
  • Efficient lighting fixtures reduce energy use by an estimated 47 percent.
  • Variable-speed chillers reduce energy consumption for cooling by an estimated 44 percent.
  • More than 30 percent of the materials used on the project consist of recycled content; 23 percent come from regional sources or from within 500 miles of the project site.
  • Over 90 percent of the wood used on the project is certified and harvested in a sustainable manner.

"This new laboratory and the LEED Gold certification are the result of a close collaboration of NIST facilities and property management staff, the scientists, procurement and safety staff, and many contractors," said Mike Kelley, acting director of operations for NIST Boulder.

The LEED "scorecard" on the PML is available at http://new.usgbc.org/projects/building-1-extension.

* See 2012 NIST Tech Beat article, "Two New Advanced Laboratories Open at NIST Boulder and JILA," at www.nist.gov/pml/labs-041712.cfm.

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

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January 15-16 Cloud and Big Data Conference Video Available On Demand

The January 15-16, 2013, Cloud Computing and Big Data Conference webinar video is now available on demand. This meeting, held at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), explored the opportunities created by the intersection of these new computing technologies.

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Credit: Shutterstock

Cloud computing provides on-demand access to a shared pool of configurable information technology resources. "Big data" refers to new ways of using massive amounts of information now available as text, video, images and more for advanced discovery, understanding and innovation.

Keynote speakers included Chief Information Officer of the United States Steven VanRoekel, Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher, and Google Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf. During the meeting, government and industry professionals described the success of projects achieved with innovative big data and cloud strategies. Cloud experts also shared their progress in Priority Action Plans associated with the USG Cloud Computing Technology Roadmap, Volume I (NIST SP 500-293),* and participated in a panel on international cloud computing standards.

The webinar can be viewed at www.nist.gov/itl/cloud/nist-joint-cloud-and-big-data-workshop-webcast.cfm.

* USG Cloud Computing Technology Roadmap, Volume I (NIST SP 500-293) is available at www.nist.gov/itl/cloud/upload/SP_500_293_volumeI-2.pdf

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

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Baldrige-Driven Performance Excellence Helps Grow Revenue and Jobs

Take a tip from the six two-time winners of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award: If your organization wants to achieve growth in both revenue and jobs, the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence are the best way to go.

From 1988, when the Baldrige Award was first presented, to 2011, there were five organizations that received the honor twice: Solectron Corp., 1991 and 1997 for manufacturing; The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., 1992 and 1997 for service; Texas Nameplate Co., Inc., 1998 and 2004 for small business; Cargill Kitchen Solutions (formerly Sunny Fresh Foods), 1999 for small business and 2005 for manufacturing; and MEDRAD, 2003 and 2010 for manufacturing. The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (BPEP), manager of the Baldrige Award at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in cooperation with the private sector, decided to compare revenue and jobs data for these organizations for both years in which they won. The median growth in revenue for the two-time winners was 93 percent and the median growth in jobs was 63 percent. The job growth was significantly higher than the average growth in jobs of 3.2 percent for matched industries and time periods (as reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Comparative statistics for revenue were not available.

When MESA Products, Inc., received its second Baldrige Award for small business in November 2012 (the first was in 2006), the company’s revenue and jobs growth numbers were added to the mix. The median growth in revenue for all six two-time Baldrige Award winners is now 92.5 percent and the median growth in jobs is now 65.5 percent. In contrast, the comparative average growth in jobs for matched industries and time periods has dropped to 2.5 percent. MESA’s contribution to the positive growth figures is impressive, considering that the six-year period between the company’s two Baldrige Awards (2006-2012) was one marked by tough economic times in the United States.

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 with the Baldrige Award in six categories: manufacturing, service, small business, health care, education and nonprofit.

Thousands of organizations worldwide use the Baldrige Criteria to guide their operations, improve performance and get sustainable results. This proven improvement and innovation framework offers organizations an integrated approach to key management areas. The criteria are regularly updated to reflect the leading edge of validated management practice.

The Baldrige Award is not given for specific products or services. Since 1988, 93 organizations have received the award.

For more about the BPEP, the Baldrige Criteria and the Baldrige Award, go to www.nist.gov/baldrige.

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

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