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2014 SURF Research Opportunities

Application deadline is February 14, 2014.

Applied Chemicals and Materials Division


647-1 Vapor Generation and Analysis in Forensic Sciences
Thomas J. Bruno, 303-497-5158, bruno[at]
A new, very high sensitivity method to generate and analyze vapors is pyrolysis cryoadsorption, recently developed at NIST. It has been used to test for explosives, cosmetics, fuel additives, etc. We will extend this to the detection of pollutants, often the result of illegal dumping. A SURF student working on this will become expert at gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, and many other analytical techniques. Contact advisor for more details.

647-2 Development of Practical Biofuels
Thomas J. Bruno, 303-497-5158, bruno[at]
The best method to study the phase properties of biofuels is the composition-explicit distillation curve developed at NIST. The technique provides an energy content channel in addition to the volatility of a fuel. We have applied this method to biodiesel, and this summer we will extend this to include aviation fuels. A SURF student working on this will become expert at gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, and many other analytical techniques. Contact advisor for more details.

647-3 Raman Spectroscopy of Nanomaterials
Lawrence Robins, 303-497-6794, lrobins[at]
We are using Raman spectroscopy to investigate nanomaterials for applications from low-cost fuel cells to next-generation electronics. Raman-active vibrational modes can reveal structural, mechanical, chemical, and electronic properties. Current research is focused on: (a) metal nanoparticles in a liquid electrolyte environment for fuel cell catalysts; (b) quasi-2D (single to few atomic layer) materials, and related nanostructures fabricated by advanced lithography techniques.

647-4 Nanotechnology for Water and Energy
Lauren Greenlee, 303-497-4234, greenlee[at]
We design nanostructured materials for water treatment and alternative energy applications, including water contaminant degradation, filtration, fuel oxidation, and water electrolysis. We work on nanoparticle and membrane synthesis, and we use a range of instruments for material characterization. A SURF student involved in this project will have the opportunity to learn experimental techniques including nanoparticle synthesis, nanoparticle characterization, microscopy, and membrane testing.

647-6 Alternative Energy: Transportation of Hydrogen Fuel
Andy Slifka, 303-497-3744, slifka[at]
Alternative energy will take many forms in the U.S. in the future. Hydrogen will be a part of the overall alternative energy strategy, and the most efficient means of fuel transport is by pipeline. Hydrogen embrittles steel, so we are measuring the extent of that embrittlement in a range of steels and determining why it occurs. If you don’t mind danger and destruction, come and break steels in our high-pressure hydrogen chamber.

647-7 More Bio-Refineries, Less Brominated Fire Retardants
Thomas J. Bruno and Jason Widegren, 303-497-5207, widegren[at]
The production of biodiesel requires separations. However, the vapor pressures for some biodiesel esters are not well known, which complicates the design of bio-refineries. Flame retardants such as brominated diphenyl ethers are added to consumer products. However, they bio-accumulate through the vapor phase, and there is evidence that exposure leads to adverse health outcomes. The student will measure vapor pressures and use gas chromatography, NMR spectroscopy, and Karl Fischer titration.

Quantum Electronics and Photonics Division


686-1 High-Speed Measurements
Paul Hale, 303-497-5367, hale[at]
Our team has developed opto-electronic methods to accurately characterize signals and test equipment at frequencies above 100 GHz. This work finds application in millimeter-wave wireless and 100 Gbit/s communications such as the Internet. The student will work on electro-optic sampling and with state-of-the-art, high-speed oscilloscopes. Experience with Visual Basic programming is desirable.

686-2 Single-Photon Sources and Detectors
Marty Stevens, 303-497-4740, marty[at]
Our group performs measurements at the lowest possible light levels, using semiconductor quantum dots as single-photon sources, and superconducting nanowires as single-photon detectors. We are working to improve the efficiency and fidelity of these single-photon sources for applications such as creating entangled photons and generating other quantum states of light. This work will allow a student to develop laboratory skills in single-photon optical spectroscopy and high-speed electronics.

Electromagnetics Division


687-1 Microsystems for Bio-Imaging and Metrology
John Moreland, 303-497-3641, moreland[at]
This project uses micro- and nanosystems (MEMS and NEMS) for new instrumentation in biomedical research. We are interested in applications of nanometer-scale magnetic particles in microfluidics and in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Some examples include novel probe microscopes, ultra-sensitive magnetometers for bio-assays, high-resolution MR spectrometer probes, magnetic manipulation and measurement of molecules, and radio-frequency tags and contrast agents for MRI.

687-2 Micro-Engineered MRI Contrast Agents
John Moreland, 303-497-3641, moreland[at]
Microfabricated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agents are a new class of imaging agents based on magnetic micro- and nanostructures that add color to MRI. The student will experiment with new micropatterning techniques aimed at fabricating such structures in faster and cheaper ways, gaining experience in microfabrication, MRI, and possibly magnetics simulation. This project would ideally suit a student with a background in both chemistry and physics.

687-3 Python-Based Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI) Analysis and Simulation
Stephen Russek, 303-497-5097, russek[at]
This project entails developing Python based MRI analysis and simulation tools to process data on NIST phantoms (MRI calibration structures) from clinical sites around the world. Analyses include geometric distortion and resolution, quantitative diffusion measurements, and mapping electromagnetic properties. Simulation includes solving Bloch equations on large ensembles of spin packets to generate synthetic MRI data. This project will involve imaging on NIST and Univ. of Colorado MRI scanners.

687-4 Graphene Beyond the Microscale
Mark Keller, 303-497-5430, mkeller[at]
The excitement generated by graphene's exceptional properties led to the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics. We are pursuing graphene synthesis over millimeter length scales with the performance and uniformity required for practical electronic, mechanical, and chemical devices. A SURF participant will learn chemical vapor deposition techniques, use various characterization tools (SEM, AFM, Raman), measure graphene transistors, and gain hands-on experience with the strongest known material.

687-5 Electromagnetic Response of Nanoparticles in Microfluidic Channels
James Booth, 303-497-7900, booth[at]
Our project is currently using microfluidic networks to develop on-chip microwave-frequency measurement and control structures for small fluid volumes. Our project goals are to accurately determine the electromagnetic response of proteins, biomolecules, and nanoparticles in solution over the extremely broad frequency range from 100 Hz to 100 GHz.

687-7 Antenna Software Renovation

Jason Coder, 303-497-4670, jbc[at]

We maintain a set of software used across industry for calculating antenna parameters. We are in the process of modernizing it to be more user-friendly and incorporate improvements in the underlying theory. This project entails assisting with multiple phases of development: structure, documentation, and user interface. The student will develop skills in scientific computing, general development, and software integration. Experience with MATLAB, FORTRAN, and/or LabVIEW preferred.

Time and Frequency Division


688-1 Development of Compact Atomic Clocks Based on Laser-Cooled Atoms
Elizabeth Donley, 303-497-5173, edonley[at]
Portable, high-performance atomic clocks in battery-operable packages could bring about dramatic new timing applications in navigation and communications systems. Toward this goal, we are developing compact atomic clocks based on coherent population trapping. A student working on this project will experience a broad range of techniques needed for the long-term development of compact atomic clocks, including lasers and optics, measurement methods, electronics, atomic theory, and vacuum systems.

688-2 Atomic Clock Technology
Lora Nugent-Glandorf, 303-497-4779, LNG[at]
The metrology group is pursuing atomic clock technology with reduced sensitivities to vibration. Once developed, such technology has immediate use in field applications such as secure telecommunications, navigation, and radar. With this as the guiding goal, the student will be involved in setting up a cold atom clock and performing tests to characterize vibration sensitivity. The student will learn about atomic physics, laser cooling, rf electronics, and noise characterization.

688-3 Optical Atomic Clocks
Chris Oates, 303-497-7654, oates[at]
The student will aid in the development of next-generation optical atomic clocks. Many techniques of atomic physics will be introduced, including laser cooling, magneto-optical trapping, optical lattices, laser stabilization, and ultra-high resolution spectroscopy. The student will gain experience with different laser systems, including diode lasers, green and yellow light sources based on nonlinear conversion of infrared fiber lasers, and red Ti:sapphire lasers.

Applied and Computational Mathematics Division


771-1 Quantum State Estimation
Scott Glancy, 303-497-3369, sglancy[at]
Because of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, it is impossible to learn the state of a quantum system from a single measurement. However, by making a series of different measurements, one can determine the quantum state using "quantum state estimation." We are developing algorithms and writing software to estimate quantum states prepared in experiments at NIST. This will be a good opportunity to gain practical programming experience while learning both quantum theory and statistics.


SURF student in lab