With the July 9, 2003 issue, we combined under one title
two NIST newsletters, NIST
Update and NIST TechBeat. We’ve made the change
to help improve the timeliness of our topics. Our goal is to
topics tied to publication of peer-reviewed papers, conference
presentations, and other timely “news hooks” as often
as possible. We also will be including photos and graphics whenever
We hope you like the new look! Please let me know if you have
any comments or suggestions.
Gail Porter, firstname.lastname@example.org
NIST TechBeat Editor
for a 'Shake Gel'
and computer scientists are using a special facility at the
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to
scale molecules up for people-sized interactions. Using chemical
data, NIST software, special eyewear, and floor-to-ceiling
display screens, they create giant three-dimensional molecules
that move. Molecular behavior can be seen and understood
in minutes instead of the weeks required using traditional
NIST scientists and collaborators used the 3D facility to study
"smart gels," inexpensive materials that expand or
contract in response to external stimuli. For example, a “smart”
artificial pancreas might release insulin inside the body in
response to high sugar levels. Other applications may include
exotic foods, cosmetics or sensors. But scientists need to better
understand the molecular behavior of the gels before they can
optimize them for specific products.
The NIST team is studying a category of these materials called
shake gels. Mixtures of clays and polymers, these materials
firm up into gels when shaken, and then gradually relax again
to liquids. In a shock absorber, for instance, such materials
would generally be liquid but would stiffen into a gel when
the car drove over bumps or potholes.
visualization facility helped the scientists see that it is
the polymer's oxygen atoms, not the hydrogen atoms as previously
thought, that attach to the clay. The team's theoretical calculations
also showed that water binds to the clay surfaces in a perpendicular
arrangement. This may help create the firmness of the gel. Theoretical
aspects of the smart gels research are discussed in the Aug.
28 issue of Journal of Physical Chemistry B. The work
is sponsored by Kraft Foods and involves scientists from NIST,
Los Alamos National Laboratory and Harvard University. (More
detailed version of this article)
Ost, (301) 975-4034
Detoxifying Sediments With Electrons and UV Light
concentration of certain toxic organic chemicals in waterway
sediments can be reduced by 83 percent using electron beams--the
same technology already used to decontaminate mail--scientists
from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
and the University of Maryland will report in the Sept. 1 issue
of Environmental Science & Technology. In an additional
series of laboratory experiments, the team found that ultraviolet
light also can substantially reduce the concentration of these
are significant because sediments, soupy mixtures of water and
particles of various sizes, are notoriously difficult and expensive
to decontaminate. Further, electron beams and ultraviolet light
effectively detoxified the banned chemicals known collectively
as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which can get into the
food chain and increase the risk of cancer in humans. Waterways
such as the Hudson River have bottom sediments heavily contaminated
with PCBs. However, whether electron beams and ultraviolet light
are practical decontamination techniques will depend on cost-effectiveness
comparisons to existing methods, such as chemical treatment
and incineration. In addition, issues such as availability of
electron beams will need to be resolved. The scientists used
a beam at the University of Maryland for the recent studies.
beams and ultraviolet light remove chlorine ions (charged atoms)
from PCBs, which reduces toxicity and enhances prospects for
biodegradation of the remaining material by living organisms.
The scientists evaluated the effectiveness of the treatment
methods in removing PCBs from a NIST Standard Reference Material
containing sediments with carefully measured amounts of contaminants.
Research continues on additives and conditions that might enhance
the decontamination processes. The research is funded by NIST,
the university, and the Maryland Water Resources Center.
Ost, (301) 975-4034
MEP Center Helps Maine Company Build Bright
Future on the Past
you have been in a craft or hobby store lately, you know that
"scrapbooking" has gone way beyond pasting a few vacation
photos and a napkin from that great restaurant in an album. Today,
scrapbookers create family memory albums using photographs, journal
entries and lots of decorative accessories. The Hobby Industry
Association estimates that more than 13 million people in the
United States spent more than $2 billion on this hobby in 2002.
Archival Solutions, a small, woman-owned business in Raymond,
Maine, was having great success selling their scrapbooking products.
But co-owners Christine Sutton and Tracey DuBois wanted to expand
by designing a new line of products that were acid free and met
all the Library of Congress criteria for archival products. The
women turned to the Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership,
an affiliate of the nationwide National Institute of Standards
and Technology (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP),
for assistance in getting a $10,000 grant; in identifying technically
advanced acid-free materials; and in constructing product prototypes.
The Maine MEP also called on paper and plastics experts at the
University of Maine to perform product testing and validation.
and DuBois recently introduced their new product line to great
reviews at the Hobby Industry Association International Show.
As a result of the assistance they received from Maine MEP, the
company retained two position--there are now four employees--and
sales are projected to increase from $5,000 a year to $100,000.
“This provides our company with a significant competitive
advantage and positions us for growth and financial success,”
more information on the Maine MEP, call (207) 623-0680. The
NIST MEP is a nationwide network of manufacturing extension
centers and field offices providing a wide variety
of expertise and services to small manufacturers in all
50 states and Puerto Rico. More information can be found at
www.mep.nist.gov or manufacturers
can reach the center serving their area by calling (800)
Kosko, (301) 975-2767
With Neutrons, Partners Pursue
The Scent of Success
a whiff of this! A new research partnership at the National
Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is using beams
of chilled neutrons to determine how aroma compounds are embedded
into assortments of other chemicals that carry and release
fragrances in perfumes, detergents and other scented products.
the elusive structural details could lead to what might be termed
an "odor of magnitude" improvement in models for predicting
interactions between fragrances and their molecular carriers.
The cooperative project involves researchers from International
Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), based in New York City, and NIST.
contributing in other ways to product performance, carrier molecules
band together and enwrap fragrance ingredients. IFF Associate
Research Fellow Chii-Fen Wang likens the structural arrangement
to an onion. "We want to determine where the fragrance compound
is located in the onion--in the center, for example, or in a particular
layer--and how the structure of the compound changes," she
how neutrons are scattered as they pass through a sample reveals
the locations and shapes of fragrance and
molecules over time, information of great interest to Wang
and her IFF colleague, Johan Pluyter. The cold (slowed-down)
neutrons available at the NIST Center for Neutron Research
are ideal probes, says NIST team member Steven Kline. These
chilled subatomic particles have wavelengths that will
enable the team to measure the structural details that it seeks,
which are on the order of 1 nanometer to
This basic information, says Wang, can guide efforts to enhance
models for formulating carriers that are optimized for specific
fragrances and products. With more accurate models, fragrance
chemists can, for example, sidestep undesired molecular changes
that subvert a desired aroma.
NIST, Partners with Team to Improve Building Regulatory
Systems—NIST is providing financial and technical
support of the "Building Regulatory Process Streamlining
Project" effort coordinated by the National Alliance for
Building Regulatory Reform in the Digital Age. The seven-month
initiative will facilitate the effective use of interoperable
information technology systems, software and standards to modernize
state and local building and fire safety regulatory systems. For
more information, go to www.ncsbcs.org.
Click on the National Alliance for Building Regulatory Reform
in the Digital Age and scroll down to the press release on the
IT Security Guide Available—NIST has released
its final version of guidelines for developing metrics to
help ensure that federal agencies meet information technology
security program requirements. The guide can be adapted by
private-sector organizations to meet their own needs. NIST
Special Publication 800-55, Security Metrics Guide for IT
Systems is available at http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-55/sp800-55.pdf
University of Maryland Expand Collaborations—NIST
and the University of Maryland recently signed two agreements
to broadly expand research collaborations and professional
linkages between the two institutions. In particular, one of
the agreements calls for both organizations to work together
in the areas of nanometrology, nanomanufacturing and related
areas. Copies of the agreements are available at www.nist.gov/public_affairs/newsfromnist_umdmou.htm.