Remarks by Dr. Arden Bement
Director, National Institute of Standards & Technology
At NIST Center for Neutron Research Recognition Event
5 August 2002
Good afternoon and welcome to the NIST Center for Neutron Research.
This is a celebration of sorts, a recognition. We decided when planning this event that we would limit the number of guests in part because this is a time to say "Thank you" to our partners who have done so much to make the NCNR such a success.
I want to especially welcome -Congresswoman Connie Morella of Maryland's Eighth Congressional District,Dr. John Marburger, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology,Dr. Rita Colwell, Director of the National Science Foundation, as well as other representatives from the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health, and from two of our private sector partners, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Corporation, and the University of California at Irvine.
I think to set the stage for our speakers I should give our visitors a little bit of background on how this facility came to be.
Planning for the original neutron source here began back in the late 50s. It was clear even then that neutron beams were going to be one of the most valuable materials research tools of the modern age. Neutron analysis would be important to physics, materials science, radiation standards, standard reference materials - some of the core responsibilities of the agency.
Even then this was seen as a user facility - but the vision was more that this would be a regional facility first and a national resource second. At the time, neutron sources were expected to be all over the place. By the late '50s many government agencies, universities and industrial organizations were actively planning or designing research reactors: Bell Labs, Union Carbide, GE, Westinghouse, and a few dozen universities across the country.
I mention this simply because the current status of the NCNR as the best and most used neutron facility in the nation - when so many other facilities have come and gone - owes a lot to the three men who designed the original source.
Carl Meuhlhause, Bob Carter and Harry Landon designed a research reactor for the long haul. Their innovative design - particular the provisions they made for what ultimately became the facility's first cold neutron source - are widely recognized to have gone beyond visionary and into prescient.
We owe an equal debt to our partners at other agencies that helped develop the facility. The concept of partnership here goes back to the beginning.
The Navy helped us fund the first four neutron diffraction instruments in the '60's. In the '70s the Army helped develop two very important neutron spectroscopy instruments, and the National Institutes of Health collaborated on one of the world's first programs to study the structure of proteins by neutron diffraction.
By the 1980s, new tools were emerging. Cold neutrons, which could image much larger features, were emerging as the hot new thing - so to speak - at the Institut Laue-Langevin in France.
The U.S. was far behind Europe in cold neutron research, but here the far-sighted design of the NIST facility paid off. NIST and the Department of Commerce proposed a large volume cold neutron source - and just as importantly this guide hall - to capitalize on the unique features of this reactor design. Their argument was greatly strengthened by the fact that the NIST facility was the only place in the country which could reasonably host such as facility.
The opening of the Cold Neutron Guide Hall in 1990 led to an explosion of partnerships and interactions with industry, universities, and other agencies. You'll be hearing more about some of those partnerships today - and more importantly, you will hear about the dividends that those partnerships have paid in scientific advances. Each year in this facility, over a thousand researchers from all over the world participate in cutting-edge research. The NCNR can boast the highest levels of participation by industry researchers of any facility of this type in the world
We've also greatly expanded our role in education at the NCNR. Over 200 graduate students are working on PhD research here in any given year. We also have special programs for college and high school students, thanks in part to the National Science Foundation. Overall, more than 120 U.S. universities a year participate in research and training at the NCNR.
And over the years the original judgment that a facility like this would be critical to the NIST mission has been proven true. Twenty NIST divisions do work at the NCNR. In addition to materials research, the Physics Lab and the Chemical Science & Technology Lab maintain their own research stations.
The NCNR is an important resource for carrying out the NIST strategic plan, particularly in nanotechnology. The high-resolution SANS and other instruments here can measurement nanostructures over an extraordinary range of four orders of magnitude, from one-tenth to over a thousand nanometers.
And it's critical in our healthcare-related strategic focus area. About 15 percent of the cold-neutron research here is in biotech or healthcare-related work.
With that as background, I'd like to call on Phil Bond to say a few words.
Phil is the Under Secretary of Commerce for Technology, so he heads up the Technology Administration, NIST's parent agency.
But he also wears another important hat as Chief of Staff to Commerce Secretary Don Evans - something that I happen to think is a darn good idea.