to Match Fingerprints Can Be Accurate
study by the
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) shows that
computerized systems that match fingerprints using interoperable
minutiae templates—mathematical representations of a fingerprint
image—can be highly accurate as an alternative to the full
fingerprint image. NIST conducted the study, called the Minutiae
Interoperability Exchange Test (MINEX), to determine whether fingerprint
system vendors could successfully use a recently approved standard*
for minutiae data rather than images of actual prints as the medium
for exchanging data between different fingerprint matching systems.
templates are a fraction of the size of fingerprint images, require
less storage memory and can be transmitted electronically faster
than images. However, the techniques used by vendors to convert
fingerprint images to minutiae are generally proprietary and their
systems do not work with each other.
For many years, law enforcement agencies have used automated fingerprint
matching devices. Increasingly, smart cards—which include
biometric information such as fingerprints—are being used
to improve security at borders and at federal facilities. The
increased use and the desire to limit storage space needed on
these cards is driving the use of minutiae rather than full images.
Fourteen fingerprint vendors from around the world participated
in MINEX. Performance depended largely on how many fingerprints
from an individual were being matched. Systems using two index
fingers were accurate more than 98 percent of the time. For single-index
finger matching, the systems produced more accurate results with
images than with standard minutia templates. However, systems
using images and two fingers had the highest rates of accuracy,
99.8 percent. Results of the test are available at http://fingerprint.nist.gov/minex04/.
sponsored by the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and Justice.
The test was not conducted to recommend or endorse any products
Committee for Information Technology Standards-378)
‘Comb’ Allows Powerful Chemical Analysis
new JILA technique uses infrared laser light in many different
colors, or frequencies, to identify trace levels of different
molecules at the same time. For example, water molecules (blue)
and ammonia molecules (green) absorb light at very specific
characteristic frequencies. The pattern of frequencies absorbed
forms a "signature" for identifying the molecules
and their concentrations.
Credit: Jeffrey Fal, JILA
an animation, see www.nist.gov/public_affairs/images/frequency_comb_animation.htm.
at JILA have designed and demonstrated a highly sensitive new
tool for real-time analysis of the quantity, structure and dynamics
of a variety of atoms and molecules simultaneously, even in minuscule
gas samples. The technology could provide unprecedented capabilities
in many settings, such as chemistry laboratories, environmental
monitoring stations, security sites screening for explosives or
biochemical weapons, and medical offices where a patient’s
breath is analyzed to monitor disease.
in the March 17 issue of Science,* the new technology
is an adaptation of a conventional technique, cavity ring-down
spectroscopy, for identifying chemicals based on their interactions
with light. The JILA system uses an ultrafast laser-based “optical
frequency comb” as both the light source and as a ruler
for precisely measuring the many different colors of light after
the interactions. The technology offers a novel combination of
a broad range of frequencies (or bandwidth), high sensitivity,
precision and speed. A provisional patent application has been
JILA is a
joint institute of the National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST) and the University of Colorado at Boulder.
a frequency comb can do beautifully is offer a powerful combination
of broad spectral range and fine resolution,” says NIST
Fellow Jun Ye, who led the work described in the paper. “The
amount of information gathered with this approach was previously
unimaginable. It’s like being able to see every single tree
of an entire forest. This is something that could have tremendous
industrial and commercial value.”
combs are an emerging technology designed and used at JILA, NIST
and other laboratories for frequency metrology and optical atomic
clocks, and are being demonstrated in additional applications.
NIST/JILA physicist John
(Jan) Hall shared the 2005 Nobel Prize in physics in part
for his contributions to the development of frequency combs [www.nist.gov/public_affairs/newsfromnist_frequency_combs.htm].
In the application described in Science, the frequency
comb is used to precisely measure and identify the light absorption
signatures of many different atoms and molecules.
For futher information, see www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/frequency_comb.htm.
* M.J. Thorpe,
K.D. Moll, R.J. Jones, B. Safdi and J. Ye. 2006. Broadband cavity
ringdown spectroscopy for sensitive and rapid molecular detection.
Science. March 17.
Record-breaking Detector May Aid Nuclear Inspections
chip built by NIST researchers with 16 tiny gamma
ray detectors that may help nuclear inspectors improve
analysis of plutonium and other radioactive materials.
Each detector is one millimeter square.
a high resolution version of this image.
at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
have designed and demonstrated the world’s most accurate
gamma ray detector, which eventually is expected to be useful
in verifying inventories of nuclear materials and detecting
radioactive contamination in the environment.
tiny prototype detector, described March 14 at the American
Physical Society national meeting in Baltimore, can pinpoint
gamma ray emission signatures of specific atoms with 10
times the precision of the best conventional sensors used
to examine stockpiles of nuclear materials. The NIST tests,
performed with different forms of plutonium at Los Alamos
National Laboratory,* also show the prototype greatly clarifies
the complex X-ray and gamma-ray emissions profile of plutonium.
from radioactive materials such as uranium or plutonium
provide unique signatures that, if accurately measured,
can indicate the age and enrichment of the material and
sometimes its intended purpose or origin.
1-square-millimeter (mm) prototype collects only a small
amount of radiation, but NIST and Los Alamos researchers
are collaborating to make a 100-sensor array that could
be deployed in the field, perhaps mounted on a cart or in
system isn't planned as a primary detection tool,”
says NIST physicist Joel Ullom. “Rather, it is intended
for detailed analysis of material flagged by other detectors
that have larger collection areas but less measurement accuracy.”
An array could be used by inspectors to determine, for example,
whether plutonium is of a dangerous variety, whether nuclear
fuel was made for energy reactors or weapons, or whether
what appears to be radium found naturally in the environment
is actually explosive uranium.
data plots above show detection of gamma rays with
specific energies. Arrows point to energies identified
with the new detector that are difficult to detect
in the red plot made with a conventional detector.
a high resolution version of this image.
credit: NIST, National Nuclear Security Agency, Los
Alamos National Laboratory
further information, see www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/
Ullom, B.L. Zink, J.A. Beall, W.B. Doriese, W.D. Duncan,
L. Ferreira, G.C. Hilton, K.D. Irwin, C.D. Reintsema, L.R.
Vale, M.W. Rabin, A. Hoover, C.R. Rudy, M.K. Smith, D.M.
Tournear and D.T. Vo. 2005. Development of large arrays
of microcalorimeters for precision gamma-ray spectroscopy.
Published in The Conference Record of the IEEE Nuclear
Science Symposium, Puerto Rico, Oct. 23-29, 2005.
Advance Produces Quantum Calculation Record
theoreticians from the National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST) and Indiana University (IU) have published the most accurate
values yet for fundamental atomic properties of a molecule—values
calculated from theory alone.
In a recent paper,*
James Sims of NIST and Stanley Hagstrom of IU announced a new
high-precision calculation of the energy required to pull apart
the two atoms in a hydrogen molecule (H2). Accurate to 1 part
in 100 billion, these are the most accurate energy values ever
obtained for a molecule of that size, 100 times better than the
best previous calculated value or the best experimental value.
Their results are intrinsically interesting to astronomers studying
galactic clouds of hydrogen, and to anyone else doing precision
hydrogen spectroscopy, but the methods they used are perhaps equally
requires solving an approximation of the Schrödinger equation,
one of the central equations of quantum mechanics. It can be approximated
as the sum of an infinite number of terms, each additional term
contributing a bit more to the accuracy of the result. For all
but the simplest systems or a relative handful of terms, however,
the calculation rapidly becomes impossibly complex. While very
precise calculations have been done for systems of just three
components such as helium (a nucleus and two electrons), Sims
and Hagstrom are the first to reach this level of precision for
H2 with two nuclei and two electrons. Their calculations were
carried out to 7,034 terms.
To make the
problem computationally practical, Sims and Hagstrom merged two
earlier algorithms for these calculations—one which has
advantages in ease of calculation, and one which more rapidly
achieves accurate results—into a hybrid with some of the
advantages of both. They also developed improved computer code
for a key computational bottleneck (high-precision solution of
the large-scale generalized matrix eigenvalue problem) using parallel
processing. The final calculations were run on a 147-processor
parallel cluster at NIST over the course of a weekend—on
a single processor it would have taken close to six months.
* J. Sims
and S. Hagstrom. 2006. High precision variational calculations
for the Born-Oppenheimer energies of the ground state of the hydrogen
molecule. The Journal of Chemical Physics, 124, 094101
(published online on March 1).
Mandatory Security Standard Now Available
Secretary Carlos Gutierrez recently approved a new standard to
help federal agencies improve their information technology security
and comply with the Federal Information Security Management Act
(FISMA) of 2002. Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS)
Publication 200, Minimum Security Requirements for Federal
Information and Information Systems, is the second of two
mandatory security standards required by the FISMA legislation.
FIPS 200 specifies
minimum-security requirements for federal information and information
systems that are not national security systems and a risk-based
process for selecting security controls necessary to satisfy these
requirements. Security controls are the management, operational
and technical safeguards and countermeasures needed to protect
the confidentiality, integrity and availability of a computer
system and its information.
199, Standards for Security Categorization of Federal Information
and Information Systems, requires agencies to categorize
their information and information systems as low-impact, moderate-impact
or high-impact for the security objectives of confidentiality,
integrity and availability. A third publication, Recommended
Security Controls for Federal Information Systems (NIST Special
Publication 800-53), specifies minimum sets of security controls
for information systems and provides guidance on selecting the
appropriate controls for 17 security-related areas, including
risk assessment, contingency planning, incident response, access
control, and identification and authentication.
other NIST computer security publications are available at http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/.
'Liquid Lens' Data for Immersion Lithography
data on the properties of potential "liquid lenses"
compiled by the National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST) could help the semiconductor industry continue to shrink
feature sizes on computer chips.
In a paper
published in the March 10, 2006 issue of Applied Optics,*
NIST researchers present newly measured values for key properties
of organic solvents and inorganic solutions that might be useful
in immersion lithography. Little more than an idea three years
ago, immersion lithography is already being commercialized, thanks
in part to previously published NIST data. The technique uses
liquids to sharpen the focus of patterns used in "printing"
semiconductor circuits, much like the eye uses a liquid center
to help form images on the retina. Prototype commercial systems
use water between the last lens element and the circuit's silicon
wafer base, to focus 193-nanometer wavelengths of light down to
circuit feature sizes of perhaps 45 nanometers.
used for immersion lithography must have a high refractive index—the
higher the better—which affects how light bends as it crosses
interfaces. NIST previously published data on the refractive index
of water, which is almost 50 percent higher than that of air.
"When we started this work two years ago, you couldn't even
find adequate data on water," says Simon Kaplan, lead author
of the new paper.
have proposed proprietary high-index immersion liquids. The NIST
work, by contrast, is a fully public report of the key optical
properties of a range of fluids. The survey indicates useful trends,
such as the fact that refractive index increases with molecular
size, and includes data on the effect of temperature on the refractive
index, which is crucial in maintaining a sharp focus during the
printing process. The data may help other researchers identify
useful liquids or calibrate their own measurements.
was funded in part by International SEMATECH.
* S.G. Kaplan
and J.H. Burnett. 2006. Optical properties of fluids for 248 nm
and 193 nm immersion photolithography. Applied Optics.
Posted online March 10.
Approved to Federal ID Standard
U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez has approved a revision
to Federal Information Processing Standard 201 (FIPS 201), a standard
issued in February 2005 for a smart card-based form of identification
for federal employees and contractors called the Personal Identity
Verification (PIV) card. The revision was made to clarify the
identity proofing and registration process that federal agencies
must follow when issuing a PIV card.
makes the standard consistent with guidance issued to agencies
by the Office of Management and Budget in August 2005. The revised
standard, FIPS 201-1, Personal Identity Verification (PIV) of
Federal Employees and Contractors, is available at http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/fips/#fips201-1.
Flow Researchers to Use NASA Supercomputer
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently announced
that a team of researchers at the National Institute of Standards
and Technology (NIST) has been awarded 1 million central processing
unit (CPU) hours on the Columbia supercomputer at the space agency's
Ames Research Center. The allocation is one of four awards of
supercomputer time given in a peer-reviewed competition for "grand
challenge" computational science projects led by researchers
team of William George, Judith Terrill, Nicos Martys and Edward
Garboczi will use the granted time to study the flow, dispersion
and merging of densely suspended, diversely sized and shaped materials
(primarily cement in concrete) under a variety of conditions.
Access to the NASA machine will allow computer modeling at a level
and range impossible with existing facilities at NIST. The ability
to better model real conditions will significantly improve the
scientific basis for prediction and measurement of the flow properties
of concrete. A NASA press release on the award is at www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2006/mar/HQ_06086_super_computer_time.html.
Seeks Reference Nucleic Acid Sequences
The National Institute
of Standards and Technology (NIST) is soliciting “a few
good nucleic acid sequences” for possible inclusion in a
library of RNA reference materials for use in gene expression
NIST is building
the library as part of a program with the External RNA Controls
Consortium (ERCC) to develop a set of well-characterized RNA sequences
that can be used as a simple but reliable check on the performance
of DNA microarrays, quantitative Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase
Chain Reaction (QRT-PCR) experiments, and other gene expression
assays. (See “Consortium Seeks Comment on Gene Expression
which will be used in a manner mimicking portions of typical mammalian
mRNA transcripts, must be released to the public domain. The sequence
library will be used to assemble RNA materials for the planned
test suite of external RNA controls. To ensure the broadest possible
base library of sequences, NIST has extended the deadline for
inclusion in the first round of testing to April 28, 2006. For
details, see “Notice of Intent To Establish the NIST Nucleic
Acid Sequence Library,” Federal Register, Feb.
28, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 39), pp 10012-10013.
Earthquake Program Seeks Public Comments
Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) is the federal government's
program to reduce the risks to life and property from earthquakes.
The four agencies making up NEHRP—the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA), the United States Geological Survey
(USGS), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the organization's
lead agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST)—are seeking the public’s assistance in updating
the program’s 2001-2005 strategic plan to create the plan
for 2006-2010. Anyone interested in participating in this process
may download the 2001-2005 plan from the NEHRP Web site (http://www.nehrp.gov
) and suggest updates via a public comment form at the same site.
The form may be e-mailed, faxed or sent by regular mail to NEHRP.
NEHRP will accept comments through May 26, 2006.
the NEHRP agencies will host an open forum at the 100th Anniversary
1906 San Francisco Earthquake Conference on April 17, 2006. At
the forum, each of the four NEHRP agencies will present a brief
summary of its current activities and then take comments from
conference attendees on NEHRP performance and direction. More
information is available at http://www.1906eqconf.org.