of Matter Yields Nobel Prize for NIST Researcher
three men who completed the 71-year quest for the Bose-Einstein
condensate, a search likened by many physicists to the one for
the mythical Holy Grail, have been honored with the 2001 Nobel
Prize in physics.
newest Nobel physics laureates are Eric A. Cornell of the National
Institute of Standards and Technology, Carl E. Wieman of the University
of Colorado at Boulder, and Wolfgang Ketterle of the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. Cornell and Wieman are fellows of JILA,
a joint institute of CU-Boulder and NIST.
in 1924 by Albert Einstein, who built on the work of Satyendra
Nath Bose, the BEC occurs when individual atoms meld into a superatom
behaving as a single entity at just a few hundred billionths of
a degree above absolute zero. Cornell and Wieman first observed
the condensate in June 1995. Ketterle achieved the new state of
matter two months later and made some of the first studies of
BEC allows scientists to study the strange and extremely small
world of quantum physics as if they are looking through a giant
magnifying glass. Its creation established a new branch of atomic
physics that has provided a treasure-trove of scientific discoveries.
Future applications of the BEC may include its use in nanotechnology
and precision measurement.
three winners will share a $943,000 prize for their achievements.
is the second Nobel laureate for NIST. William Phillips, a NIST
fellow, shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics.
Smith (Boulder), (303) 497-3198
a Dirty Job, But Somebody Has to Do It
sweeps are not the only people who make a living out of soot.
Some scientists have devoted careers to studying soot, which
turns out to be a somewhat mysterious substance.
National Institute of Standards and Technologys Chemical
Science and Technology Laboratory is developing a process
to make designer soot, a task thatconsidering
the ubiquity of this gritty, grimy materialisnt
as easy as one might think.
soot produced under controlled conditions in NISTs spray
combustion facility is part of an effort to develop metrology
for this material. Today, the physical and chemical properties
of soot cannot be measured with certainty, a concern to both
industry and government regulators. NIST is working with the
Environmental Protection Agency to improve the monitoring of
air quality and the understanding of how airborne particulate
matter (such as soot) may affect human health. NISTs role
includes the development of standard materials that can be used
to calibrate analytical instruments that measure particulate
plan to control fuel type and combustion conditions so that
an easily reproducible designer soot recipe can
applications for this research extend beyond atmospheric science
and environmental monitoring. For example, a greater understanding
of the chemistry behind carbon particulate formation would be
very useful to persons working in fire research (including NISTs
Building and Fire Research
Laboratory, which does extensive studies of soot properties,
behavior and impacts) and nanotechnology.
Newman, (301) 975-3025
Helps Close Electronic Nooks to Computer-Using Crooks
bits of evidence collected by police at a crime scene include
the smoking gun, fingerprints and lipstick on a glass. However,
todays investigators often must search beyond the obvious
for the missing piece that will solve the puzzlelike within
a computers hard drive.
science specialists invited to the National Institute of Standards
and Technology recently completed a guide for law enforcement
officers titled Electronic Crime Scene Investigation: A Guide
for First Responders. The booklet provides investigators who
regularly are the first to arrive at a crime scene (known as first
responders) with an overview of what kinds of electronic
evidence may be available to them in devices ranging from large
computers to pagers.
people began using computers to directly commit criminal offensessuch
as online fraud and hackingspecialized police groups were
trained to evaluate a crime scene and preserve electronic evidence.
However, the ever increasing involvement of computers in other
crimes (for example, a stalker sending harassing e-mails or an
illegal business storing data in a spreadsheet program) means
that this expertise no longer can be limited to select teams.
Therefore, NISTs Office
of Law Enforcement Standardswith sponsorship by the
Department of Justices National Institute of Justiceproduced
the new electronic crime scene guide.
recently published the NIST guide in both ASCII and Adobe Acrobat
downloadable formats at the following web address: www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/pubs-sum/187736.htm.
Bulman, (301) 975-5661
Friction: Lubricants for Minuscule Machines
say that water and oil dont mix. They can, however, co-exist
as two separate molecules on the same surface. And therein lie
both opportunities and challenges for National Institute of Standards
and Technology researchers who are aiding industry efforts to
develop surface protecting and lubricating films that will shield
super-small machines and their even tinier components from friction
lubricants or single-layer films will be needed for the minuscule
nanotechnology gadgetry to come, from dust-sized environmental
sensors to machines for repairing damaged cells. Todays
lubrication systemssuch as the fluorocarbon compounds and
carbon overcoats used on magnetic disk drivesmay not be
adequate to meet the demanding performance requirements envisioned
for nanotechnology applications.
collaborators from the data-storage and lubricant industries,
the NIST team is exploring the lubricating potential of a mixed-molecule,
single-layer film. They are testing novel combinations of up to
four different molecules, each one chosen to achieve desired capabilities,
from wear resistance to self-repair. In one combination, for example,
a particular group of molecules adheres tightly to the surface,
anchoring the film and protecting against high-shear collisions.
Other molecules swim among the anchors to prevent
NIST team is developing test methods to evaluate new materials
and new combinations of materials being considered as lubricants.
overview of this project (in Adobe Acrobate format) can be found
Bello, (301) 975-3776
Microhotplate May Help Search for Extraterrestrial
or unmanned space vehicles may one day detect and quantitate the
gases found on other planets using tiny chemical sensorseach
measuring about 100 microns, approaching the width of a human
hairbased on a design developed at NIST.
researchers are collaborating with the National Aeronautics and
Space Administrations Jet Propulsion Laboratory to adapt
NISTs microhotplate technology for use in space
applications, such as detecting biogenic (produced by living organisms)
gases in planetary atmospheres, investigating organic materials
on comets for studies of the history of the universe, or monitoring
air quality in habitats. This advanced measurement system already
has proven applicable to environmental monitoring and military
microhotplate is a tiny machined structure consisting of a heater,
a metal thermometer/heat distribution plate and electrical contacts,
all separated by insulating layers. Sensing films are deposited
on the structures. The device relies on changes in electrical
conductance in the sensing film to detect the presence of adsorbed
gases. Temperature changes may be used to create response fingerprints
for different gases. Gas mixtures can be analyzed with sensor
arrays of multiple microhotplate devices.
of a microhotplate for use in space include its small size, light
weight, and low power and maintenance requirements. It has the
potential to provide almost instant chemical analysis or collect
samples over time to detect small amounts of gases.
Newman, (301) 975-3025
Defenders Get Better Defense Against Stabbings
of corrections and law enforcement officers are safer from stabbing
attacks these days because of a new standard developed by NISTs
Office of Law Enforcement
nations with strict gun control laws, including the United Kingdom,
view stabbing as a much more common threat to law enforcement
officers than shooting. In this country, it is the greater threat
to people who work in prisons and jails, where guns are unavailable
and stabbing attacks involving improvised knives often occur.
NIST researchers worked with the U.K.s Police Scientific
Development Branch to develop ways to test the effectiveness of
specially designed vests that protect against stabbing attacks.
These stab-resistant vests are similar to ballistic-resistant
body armor (commonly, but incorrectly, called bullet-proof
vests). Researchers have found that ballistics-resistant
vests do not necessarily provide adequate protection against knife
National Institute of Justice, an agency of the Department of
Justice, sponsored the NIST research that led to the stab-resistant
body armor standard. Since the standard was released in September
2000, state, county and local law enforcement and corrections
agencies have purchased about 24,000 stab-resistant vests with
their own and supplemental funding from the Justice Departments
Vest Partnership Program.
performance standard for stab-resistant vests complements the
ballistic-resistant body armor standard that NIST previously developed
for NIJ. Its estimated that the standard has helped save
the lives of more than 2,500 law enforcement officers since 1975,
when vests meeting its criteria were first issued to 5,000 officers
in 15 major cities.