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About MML

The Material Measurement Laboratory is one of two metrology laboratories within the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The laboratory supports the NIST mission by serving as the national reference laboratory for measurements in the chemical, biological and material sciences. Our activities range from fundamental and applied research on the composition, structure and properties of industrial, biological and environmental materials and processes, to the development and dissemination of tools including reference measurement procedures, certified reference materials, critically evaluated data, and best practice guides that help assure measurement quality. Our research and measurement services support areas of national importance, such as:

  • Advanced materials, from nanomaterials to structural steels to complex fluids
  • Energy, from characterization and performance of fossil and alternative fuels to next-generation renewable sources of energy
  • The environment, from the measurement of automotive exhaust emissions and other pollutants to assessment of climate change and the health and safety aspects of man-made nanomaterials
  • Health care, from clinical diagnostics to tissue engineering and more efficient manufacturing of biologic drugs
  • Infrastructure, from assessing the country's aging bridges and pipelines to the quality of our drinking water
  • Manufacturing, from lightweight alloys for fuel-efficient automobiles to biomanufacturing, advanced electronics, and data for chemical manufacturing
  • Safety, security and forensics, from gunshot and explosive residue detection, to ensuring the performance of body armor materials, to DNA-based human identity testing

The Material Measurement Laboratory also coordinates the NIST-wide Standard Reference Materials® (SRM) and Standard Reference Data programs, which include production, documentation, inventory, marketing, distribution and customer service.

The Material Measurement Laboratory comprises the divisions:


The research and measurement services provided by the Material Measurement Laboratory underpin measurements in the chemical, biological and material sciences and support innovation in both mature and emerging industrial sectors. As examples, our work to enable reliable and trustworthy measurements and data help

  • Physicians make more accurate diagnoses and better monitor the effectiveness of therapeutic regimens
  • Policy makers and regulatory bodies make science-based decisions about environmental quality and potential threats to the environment
  • Forensic investigators make decisions based on scientifically sound evidence, such as DNA-based identity tests and gunshot and explosive residue analyses
  • Trading partners confidently and fairly exchange commodities such as foods, fuels, structural steel and other materials
  • Manufacturers reliably develop and use advanced materials and processes
  • Industry link the performance of materials with their structure and processing, concepts necessary for the design of products from coatings and composites to magnetic devices and sensors

We shape our programs based on national needs with input from industry and government. Our research base provides us with the flexibility to respond to the country's priorities and rapid advances in science and technology. Our success depends upon timely dissemination of our:


People and Facilities

The Material Measurement Laboratory is home to more than 1000 staff members and visiting scientists at five locations:

  • NIST main campus in Gaithersburg, MD
  • NIST Boulder Laboratories in Boulder, CO
  • Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, SC , where NIST staff work side-by-side with scientists from NOAA, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the College of Charleston, and the Medical University of South Carolina to provide the science, biotechnology and standards needed to understand links between environmental conditions and the health of marine organisms and humans
  • Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research in Rockville, MD, where scientists from NIST, the University of Maryland College Park, and the University of Maryland School of Medicine conduct research on measurement science and standards issues associated with advanced therapeutics
  • Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, NY where, in partnership with the Department of Energy, the laboratory has a user facility that enables researchers from industry, academic and other government agencies to apply synchrotron-based x-ray spectroscopy techniques to the development of products like oil additives and next-generation electronics  
Created December 4, 2008, Updated July 24, 2018