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June 30, 2005

  In This Issue:
bullet World Trade Center Team Calls for Code Improvements

Final Nightclub Fire Report Urges Code Compliance

bullet New Design Developed for Silicon Nanowire Transistors
bullet New Web Service Tracks Foreign Tech Regulations
bullet NIST to Accredit Voting Systems Test Labs
  Quick Links:
bullet NIST Outlines Support for Health IT Initiative
bullet Reference Materials Planned for Semiconductor Industry
bullet Submissions Requested for Crypto Hash Workshop
bullet NIST Scientist Honored for Neutron Probe Advances

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World Trade Center Team Calls for Code Improvements

NIST research structural engineer Nicholas Carino describes laboratory tests used to estimate the amount of fireproofing that was dislodged from various structural elements within the WTC buildings when the aircraft were flown into them on Sept. 11.

NIST research structural engineer Nicholas Carino describes laboratory tests used to estimate the amount of fireproofing that was dislodged from various structural elements within the WTC buildings when the aircraft were flown into them on Sept. 11. The specimens shown include steel bars and plates that have been coated with the same type and depth of sprayed fire-resistive material as was used in the WTC buildings.

© Robert Rathe

For a high-resolution version of this image contact

At press and public briefings in New York City on June 23, investigators from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) called on organizations that develop building and fire safety codes, standards and practices—and the state and local agencies that adopt them—to make specific changes to improve the safety of tall buildings, their occupants and first responders. The recommendations result from the agency’s investigation of the fires and collapses of New York City’s World Trade Center (WTC) towers following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Based on the findings of the most detailed examination of a building failure ever conducted, the NIST team made 30 recommendations. “We believe these recommendations are both realistic and achievable within a reasonable period of time, and should greatly improve the way people design, construct, maintain and use buildings, especially high-rises,” said WTC Lead Investigator Shyam Sunder. “The recommendations also should lead to safer and more effective building evacuations and emergency responses. However, improvements will only be realized if they are acted upon by the appropriate organizations.”

The recommendations, contained within 43 draft reports (totaling some 10,000 pages), were released for a six-week public comment period. A few of the recommendations include:

  • improving standards and codes for preventing progressive collapse;
  • enhancing the fire resistance of structures with better "fireproofing" materials and tests;
  • requirements for sprinklers, fire alarms and other "active" fire protection systems that address the greater risks of taller buildings;
  • designing tall buildings to accommodate full building evacuations if needed; and
  • installing fire-protected and structurally hardened elevators.

Media Contact:
Michael E. Newman,, (301) 975-3025



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Final Nightclub Fire Report Urges Code Compliance

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) fire investigators have urged all state and local governments to adopt and aggressively enforce national model building and fire safety codes for nightclubs. Additionally, in a report released June 29, NIST called for some significant changes to further strengthen the model codes based on the findings from the agency’s investigation of the Feb. 20, 2003, fire at The Station nightclub in W. Warwick, R.I., that killed 100 people.

The investigation concluded that “strict adherence to the 2003 model codes available at the time of the fire would go a long way to preventing similar tragedies in the future. Changes to the codes subsequent to the fire made them stronger. By making some additional changes—and state and local agencies adopting and enforcing them—we can strengthen occupant safety even further.”

“Based on our investigation findings and the comments received on our draft report, we are making 10 recommendations in our final report for increased occupant safety in nightclubs that reinforce the current model codes and proposing additional changes that will make them even more effective,” said Lead Investigator William Grosshandler.

Seven of the 10 NIST recommendations support and add to the actions already taken by the State of Rhode Island and national model code development organizations since The Station nightclub fire. Examples include requiring all nightclubs with occupancies of more than 100 people to have sprinklers, tighter restrictions on the use of flammable materials in finish products, and setting maximum permitted evacuation times (90 seconds for nightclubs similar in size to or smaller than The Station). Other recommendations address emergency preparedness and response practices.

The remaining three NIST recommendations call for more research on human behavior in emergencies, fire spread and suppression, and computer-aided decision tools—the data from which could yield further improvements in and maximize the effectiveness of these lifesaving regulations.

For further information, see

Media Contact:
Michael E. Newman,, (301) 975-3025


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New Design Developed for Silicon Nanowire Transistors

In an advance for nanoscale electronics, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have demonstrated a new design for silicon nanowire transistors that both simplifies processing and allows the devices to be switched on and off more easily.

A schematic diagram of the NIST nanowire transistor.

A schematic diagram of the NIST nanowire transistor.

Click on image for high-resolution version.

The NIST design, described in a paper published June 29 by the journal Nanotechnology,* uses a simplified type of contact between the nanowire channel and the positive and negative electrodes of the transistor. The design allows more electrical current to flow in and out of the silicon. The researchers believe the design is the first to demonstrate a "Schottky barrier" type contact for a nanowire transistor built using a "top-down" approach. This barrier, an easily formed metal contact that electrons can tunnel through, requires much less doping with impurities than do conventional ohmic contacts, thereby simplifying processing requirements. Schottky contacts also offer more resistance and restrict electrical flow to one direction when the transistor is off.

In the NIST transistor design, the 60-nanometer-wide channels exhibit a much greater difference in current between the on and off states than is true for larger reference channels up to 5 micrometers wide. This suggests that when a channel is scaled down to the nano regime, the ultra-narrow proportions significantly reduce the current leakage associated with defects in silicon. As a result, the transistors are less sensitive to electronic "noise" in the channel and can be turned on and off more effectively, according to the paper's lead author, Sang-Mo Koo, a NIST guest researcher.

Silicon nanowire devices have received considerable attention recently for possible use in integrated nanoscale electronics as well as for studying fundamental properties of structures and devices with very small dimensions. The NIST work overcomes some key difficulties in making reliable devices or test structures at nanoscale dimensions. The results also suggest that nanowire transistors made with conventional lithographic fabrication methods can improve performance in nanoscale electronics, while allowing industry to retain its existing silicon technology infrastructure.

*S.M. Koo, M.D. Edelstein, Q.Li, C.A. Richter and E.M. Vogel. 2005. Silicon nanowires as enhancement-mode Schottky barrier field-effect transistors. Nanotechnology 16. Posted online June 29.

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


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New Web Service Tracks Foreign Tech Regulations

Want to know about pending changes in technical regulations in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Korea or any of the 148 nations that are members of the World Trade Organization (WTO)? Then sign up for the Notify U.S. service to be unveiled July 1 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Notify U.S. is the successor to Export Alert!, the e-mail regulations-notification system previously offered by NIST and the International Trade Administration. This new Web-based service offers a fast, comprehensive, global perspective on proposed technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures that might influence U.S. access to export markets. Notify U.S. provides users with access to notifications and full texts of regulations issued by the WTO members. In addition, users can monitor proposed changes across chosen countries and 41 fields of industrial or technical activities, or they can select a subset of fields.

As in Export Alert!, users will receive e-mail messages informing them when proposed regulations are issued by countries or in fields of technical activity they monitor.

The new, free service is operated by NIST’s National Center for Standards and Certification Information (NCSCI). NCSCI is the nation’s designated Inquiry Point under the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. At the request of Notify U.S. users, the Center will secure the full text of a proposed regulation referenced in a notification. To learn more—and to sign up—go to the Notify U.S. Web site at

Media Contact:
Mark Bello,, (301) 975-3776



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NIST to Accredit Voting Systems Test Labs

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has established a program for accrediting laboratories that will test voting systems and components in accordance with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002. Laboratories wishing to be considered for accreditation in the first group must submit an application and pay required fees by Aug. 16, 2005. Evaluation of the first group of applicant laboratories will begin on or about Sept. 15.

The program is being established as part of NIST’s National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) in coordination with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). NVLAP accredits public and private laboratories based on evaluation of their technical qualifications and competence to carry out specific calibrations or tests. The evaluation process will include interviews with key laboratory staff to determine if they are properly trained and technically competent; reviews of laboratory documentation; and demonstrations of tests to be conducted on voting systems and components.

NVLAP accreditation is a prerequisite for a laboratory to be considered by the EAC as a Voting System Test and Certification Authority (VSTCA). EAC-accredited laboratories will test and certify voting systems for conformance with voluntary voting system standards proposed by the EAC. The EAC will maintain a list of VSTCAs to help vendors and elections officials identify qualified resources.

NIST Handbook 150-22, NVLAP Voting System Testing, provides technical requirements and guidance for accrediting laboratories under this program. For a copy of the voting system testing handbook and an application, call (301) 975-4016, send an e-mail to, or write to Voting System Program Testing Manager, NIST/NVLAP, Stop 2140, 100 Bureau Drive, Gaithersburg, Md. 20899-2140. Established in 1976, NVLAP provides third-party accreditation to testing and calibration laboratories. For more information on NVLAP, see

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



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Quick Links

NIST Outlines Support for Health IT Initiative

President Bush has set a goal of widespread adoption of electronic health records within 10 years so that health information will follow patients throughout their care in a seamless and secure manner. To help achieve this goal, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have developed a strategic partnership. In testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Technology, Innovation, and Competitiveness on June 30, NIST Acting Director Hratch Semerjian outlined how NIST plans to support the President's Health IT Initiative including:

  • assisting in evaluating responses to the Request for Proposals recently issued by HHS;
  • providing technical expertise for Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) architecture;
  • assisting in standards harmonization;
  • developing performance and conformance metrics for NHIN;
  • assisting in the development of procedures for certifying conformance; and
  • providing guidance for IT security.

The full text of Semerjian's testimony is available at:



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Reference Materials Planned for Semiconductor Industry

Companies and research organizations are invited to collaborate with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and SEMATECH in the development and evaluation of a new generation of reference materials for the semiconductor and tool manufacturing industries. The work is a continuation of NIST's efforts to provide standard "rulers" for measuring chip features. The new reference materials will differ from the previous generation in several ways. Current plans call for each reference material to be configured as a 200-millimeter wafer with a selection of die sites, each with multiple test structures with certified critical dimensions between 40 and 500 nanometers.

The reference-material design, fabrication and calibration will be led by the NIST-SEMATECH team. The principal role of participating companies and other organizations will be evaluation of the reference materials, but they also may contribute expertise, equipment time, or other resources. Participants will receive one or more wafers, and all associated measurement documentation, on completion of the work.

Those interested in participating are invited to a public event scheduled for July 13, 2005, at the San Francisco Marriott. More information and registration forms are available online at For further information contact, Michael Cresswell,, (301) 975-2072.

Information about the previous set of reference materials, delivered to SEMATECH member companies earlier this year, is available at



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Submissions Requested for Crypto Hash Workshop

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is soliciting papers, presentations and other submissions for a workshop on Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2005, in Gaithersburg, Md., to discuss a vulnerability in a NIST cryptographic standard known as SHA-1 (Secure Hash Standard). Submission topics include security status of approved hashes, short-term actions and potential replacement options.

SHA-1 is used widely by the federal government and others in cryptographic processes such as digital signatures and message authentication. In February, a team of researchers announced that they had discovered a way to “break” the SHA-1 algorithm. Submissions are due by July 15 and should be sent to For more information, see



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NIST Scientist Honored for Neutron Probe Advances

Through pioneering contributions that have expanded the capabilities of a class of specialized instruments that use neutrons to probe materials, Charles Majkrzak has given researchers around the world a productive new angle on topics ranging from the structure of cell membranes to spintronic devices for high-density data storage.

For his role in enhancing both the hardware and theory in the field known as neutron reflectometry, Majkrzak, who leads the Surfaces and Interfacial Science Team at the National Institute of Standards and Technology Center for Neutron Research, will receive the 2006 Bertram E. Warren Diffraction Physics Award. Given every three years by the American Crystallographic Association, the award recognizes those who continue the tradition of its namesake, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who developed widely used methods for determining the structure of a material by analyzing the way in which it scatters, or diffracts, X-ray beams.

Neutron reflectometers, instead, measure the glancing angles at which neutrons reflect from samples, thereby revealing details of both atomic and magnetic structure. Equipped with enhancements developed by Majkrzak and since adopted by major research facilities across the globe, these instruments now reveal greater structural detail and continue to find new applications, particularly in the field of biology. For more information on Majkrzak and his achievements, see



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Editor: Gail Porter

Date created: 6/30/05
Date updated:6/30/05