NIST TechBeat Blue/Yellow Banner NIST logo--go to NIST home page Search NIST web space go to NIST home page go to A-Z subject index skip navigation contact NIST

April 23, 2004

  In This Issue:
bullet Portable 'Rainbow' Source Improves Color Calibrations
bullet When Microns Matter: Web Site Smooths the Way
bullet Improving Eye Patient Care With Telemedicine Standards

VA’s Newest Manufacturer Has Microscopic Product Line

bullet NIST Supports Chip Group Data Standards Effort
bullet Biomaterials Group Studies 3D Reference Scaffolds
bullet Success Formulas Featured on Baldrige CDs, Videos
bullet Quick Links

[NIST Tech Beat Search] [Credits] [NIST Tech Beat Archives] [Media Contacts] [Subscription Information]

blue divider

Portable 'Rainbow' Source Improves Color Calibrations

NIST's new portable "rainbow" source for calibrating color measurement instruments. In the background are a sampling of colors generated with the source.

NIST's new portable "rainbow" source for calibrating color measurement instruments. In the background are a sampling of colors generated with the source.

If you need bright blue light at a very specific wavelength, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) can make itand fast.

In the world of color, this is no small accomplishment. NIST's traditional light sources, such as incandescent lamps, are thermal. A blue thermal source would need to function at such a high temperature that components would melt. Lack of blue light sources introduces uncertainty when calibrating instruments that measure the color of things like bright stars or the open ocean. Knowing the exact color is important because it allows scientists, for example, to use remote satellites to judge the concentration of plant life in the ocean, which in turn affects global climate.

Now NIST has developed a "rainbow source" that can be tuned across the entire visible light spectrum, from red to blue light. This unique source exploits recent materials advances in light-emitting diodes (LEDs) of different colors. By mixing exact percentages of LEDs at different wavelengths of visible light with the desired brightness, the optical properties of the source (such as the color) can be changed and tailored for a particular application. The source uses commercial LEDs. NIST researchers characterized them and developed the packaging, electronics and software. In addition, the tunable light source is highly portable. It is a sphere about 30 cm (1 foot) in diameter and weighs about two kilograms (5 pounds). Battery operated versions have been developed for field applications.

NIST researchers described the invention on April 14 at the Ocean Color Research Team Meeting in Washington, D.C. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has ordered a simplified version of the rainbow source to reduce uncertainties in calibrations of a satellite that measures ocean color, as part of a program that monitors the carbon balance between the ocean and atmosphere. The source also could simplify color calibrations in industrial and other research applications.

Additional details will be presented at a meeting at NIST in Gaithersburg, Md., on May 10-14 sponsored by NIST, the InterSociety Color Council, and the Council for Optical Radiation Measurements.

Media Contact:
Laura Ost, (301) 975-4034



blue divider

When Microns Matter: Web Site Smooths the Way

A new National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Web site enables manufacturers to check the accuracy of measurement software used to verify the smoothness of product surfaces.

Automotive, aerospace and optic industry engineers should find the NIST virtual surface calibration Web site particularly useful. Those industries rely on precise measurements of surface smoothness to ensure the efficiency of cylinder-piston engines, to make high-performance metal wind tunnels, and to produce better optical components.

Until now, manufacturers have had difficulty spotting errors in results calculated by the analysis software of measuring instruments. An undiscovered surface flaw can make a multimillion dollar line of finished products useless.

Visitors to the free NIST Web site can validate software measurements without access to proprietary software codes. The Internet site contains NIST two-dimensional surface texture analysis software and a database of approximately 10 different types of surface profiles or “silhouettes” including surface parameters calculated by NIST. Surface parameters indicate how smooth or rough a surface is or specify the shape of a surface profile.

Visitors can download surface profiles from the NIST Web site and run these profiles through their own measurement software. The surface parameters produced by the visitor’s software later can be compared with those of NIST. Manufacturers also can upload their own surface profiles to NIST and run the data through the NIST analysis software. If the results agree, the users can have more confidence in the accuracy of their software. The NIST virtual surface calibration Web site was developed in consultation with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. It is available at NIST expects to add three dimensional topographic data and associated calculated parameters to the site in 2005.

Media Contact:
John Blair, (301) 975-4261


blue divider

Improving Eye Patient Care with Telemedicine Standards

Computer scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have teamed up with a group of medical professionals to advance the use of telemedicine.

NIST and the American Telemedicine Association developed technical standards related to the diagnosis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy, which is a complication of diabetes and a leading cause of blindness.

Telemedicine helps patients to have access to health care professionals electronically, whatever their location. It can provide fast, affordable service to people who live in isolated areas or are unable to travel.

The standards and associated guidelines are related to images of the eye that help doctors decide what problems exist and how to treat them. The standards cover how to “capture” the images, which is similar to taking a photograph. Additionally, the standards provide specific procedures for storing the images electronically, sending them across telecommunications networks and interpreting them.

The standards focus on the quality of the images rather than on what kind of cameras or film must be used. This approach gives health care professionals flexibility in choosing equipment.

The associated guidelines address issues such as who is qualified to take an image and who is qualified to interpret it. Members of the American Telemedicine Association are now reviewing the draft standard before it becomes final. Once adopted, the standards will apply to eye care professionals and equipment vendors.

Media Contact:
Phil Bulman, (301) 975-5661


blue divider

VA’s Newest Manufacturer Has Microscopic Product Line

Computer model of a LUNA Innovations Trimetasphere molecule.

Computer model of a LUNA Innovations Trimetasphere molecule.

Graphic courtesy LUNA Innovations

Nanotechnology pioneer Luna Innovations of Blacksburg, Va., has announced that it plans to establish a nanomanufacturing facility in Danville, Va. The plant will produce novel "buckyball" materials for medical diagnostics and other military and commercial applications. This technology was developed in part with a 2001 award from the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Advanced Technology Program (ATP). The ATP grant helped to accelerate the development process for new nanomaterial-based medical reagents.

The Danville plant, sited in the city’s old tobacco warehouse district, will produce “TrimetaspheresTM" soccerball-shaped molecules made of a carbon exterior which enclose three metal atoms. Trimetaspheres, a discovery made at Virginia Tech and exclusively licensed to Luna Innovations, are expected to have a major impact as a contrast agent for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The molecules can provide enhanced MRI images at least 25 times better than currently marketed contrast agents. In addition to improving imaging and enabling smaller, less expensive MRI machines, Trimetaspheres can be modified chemically to make them soluble and to attach specific molecules that seek out cancer cells, or other targeted cells.

The company’s ATP project helped Luna to scale up a laboratory synthesis method to produce cost-effective, volume quantities of nanomaterials that are stable in air and soluble in water. Likewise this effort produced new methods of surface modification that allow solubility, a key issue for the success of the new material.

The company also plans to manufacture empty cage buckyballs and nanocomposite thin films. Commercial applications for these materials include both consumer and military products with possible uses in vehicle parts, stain resistant textiles, ship hull coatings and fuel cells.

Media Contact:
Michael Baum (301) 975-2763



blue divider

NIST Supports Chip Group Data Standards Effort

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has launched a new effort with International SEMATECH Manufacturing Initiative (ISMI), a subsidiary of the global semiconductor consortium International SEMATECH, to support e-manufacturing requirements of data standards for improving microprocessor manufacturing.

ISMI and several task forces at the Semiconductor Equipment Manufacturing International (SEMI) standards organization are creating standards using the extensible markup (XML) computer language. The new standards will help chipmakers collect more data about their manufacturing processes and further automate chip production.

XML is similar to HyperText Markup Language (HTML), the set of standard, descriptive words and characters or tags that are used to build Web pages. But where HTML tags are static, XML allows users to define their own tags to customize data to a greater degree.

Semiconductor manufacturers would like a standard set of industry XML tags for collecting data about critical manufacturing processes.

That’s where NIST comes in. NIST is well positioned to help develop tools that will be used to improve the quality of the standards and also to accelerate adoption of these new standards. SEMATECH sought NIST help because of NIST’s reputation for expertise both in semiconductor manufacturing processes and computer programming. Additionally, NIST is seen as a neutral third party within the industry.

The overall goal of the new project is to create a well-defined set of XML tags for collecting semiconductor-processing data that fully describe the key parameters affecting quality control, while avoiding redundancy. Chipmakers would like to be alerted to defects earlier in manufacturing and someday be able to exert real-time control to correct the defects, preventing waste. This requires receiving more data from the manufacturing equipment during operation. The XML standards will help in the collection and presentation of that data.

NIST researchers also are developing a new tool that will read XML data from chip manufacturing machines and provide a visual “diagnosis” of the process during operation.

Media Contact:
Scott Nance, (301) 975-5226



blue divider

Biomaterials Group Studies 3D Reference Scaffolds

A scientific task force is seeking members to help jump-start development of new three-dimensional reference materials for tissue engineering.

Created by the ASTM International, the task force is co-chaired by biomaterials researchers John Tesk of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Michael Yaszemski and Esmaiel Jabbari of the Mayo Clinic. The reference materials needed are carefully characterized scaffoldsartificial structures like those on which biological tissue is grown to replace diseased or damaged tissue.

A call for participation in the task force was just published in the current edition of Biomaterials Forum.

Tissue engineering is an emerging field that involves creating the right conditions to grow living structures such as skin and, potentially, whole organs, such as livers. Scaffolds are used as templates that are seeded with living cells. As the cells grow and multiply, they take on the shape of the underlying scaffold. The success or failure of a specific scaffold material depends on a variety of factors, including its physical dimensions, the scaffold’s porosity, and how well-tolerated the material is by the surrounding healthy tissue. Polymers are expected to be the most-used materials for the fabrication of scaffolds.

The task force will conduct measurements for characterization of test scaffolds.

NIST will use the task force’s recommendations to develop the first reference scaffolds, which will be made of polymers, for distribution to researchers and developers of scaffolds for tissue engineering applications.

Media Contact:
Scott Nance, (301) 975-5226



blue divider

Success Formulas Featured on Baldrige CDs, Videos

Companies large and small, in service or manufacturing; schools; and health care organizations can learn about management excellence from the six winners of the 2003 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. A new set of audiovisual materials is available showcasing the successful strategies that earned these organizations the 2003 Baldrige Award, the nation's highest honor in performance excellence.

The Baldrige program is managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in conjunction with the private sector.

The 2003 winners are: Medrad, Inc.; Boeing Aerospace Support; Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation; U.S.; Stoner, Inc.; Community Consolidated School District 15; Baptist Hospital, Inc.; and Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City.

A set of three CDs contains an in-depth look at the outstanding management practices of these six organizations as well as extensive interviews with their chief executives and others. Also included are PowerPoint presentations by the 2003 award recipients at The Quest for Excellence conference, March 28-31, 2004, and summaries of their applications for the Baldrige Award. A videocassette package with this information also is available.

The audiovisual materials are available from the American Society for Quality, P.O. Box 3066, Milwaukee, Wis. 53201-3066, (800) 248-1946. Item T1207 is the CD-ROM for $35. Item TA1126 is the videocassette for $20. Other Baldrige Award materials also are available.

Media Contact:
Jan Kosko, (301) 975-2767


blue divider

Quick Links

Baldrige Index Beaten by S&P 500 For Second Year

After eight winning years, the “Baldrige Index” has underperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 for the second time. The Baldrige Index is a fictitious stock fund made up of publicly traded U.S. companies that received the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award between 1993 and 2002. Prior to last year’s study, the Baldrige Index consistently had outperformed the S&P 500 by as much as 6.5 to 1.

While the picture is improving, technology companies, which are a significant component of the Baldrige publicly held recipients, have not performed well for the past several years in the stock market. More information on all 10 of the Baldrige Index studies is available at The Baldrige program is managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in conjunction with the private sector.
Media Contact: Jan Kosko, (301) 975-2767

Calling all Graphics Wizards and Wannabes

The SIGGRAPH 2004 conference on computer graphics and interactive technique is soliciting innovative real-time computer graphics work from industry, universities, government labs and anyone else willing to show off their talents. At a fast-paced, irreverent "face-off" run by Sandy Ressler of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), each graphics wizard gets two minutes to show off their best stuff in one of four categories: business, educational, artistic, scientific, training; games, entertainment; 3D multiuser environments; and emerging technologies. Deadline for submissions is June 1. For further information, see

blue divider

Back to Top of Page

(Return to NIST News Page)

Editor: Gail Porter

Date created: 04/08/04
Date updated: 04/23/04