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Technical Support

Industry now has access to a rare resource

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NIST’s nSoft consortium helps product developers solve difficult problems by giving them access to a powerful tool, unlike anything in an industry R&D lab, for seeing the structure of materials.


NIST’s Material Measurement Lab developed a new model for outreach to increase industry access to federally funded scientific instruments, which are often under-utilized by private-sector researchers because they don’t have the expertise to use them. nSoft and the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) train industrial scientists from companies like Procter & Gamble and Genentech to measure materials nondestructively. Members of nSoft develop expertise in neutron science by planning and executing their own experiments at NCNR with guidance from NIST scientists.

A typical diagram to explain the working of a neutron instrument
Beams of neutrons can pass through soft materials--cancer drugs, vaccines, high performance plastics and composites, agricultural products, and even batteries--without damaging their structure, yet still “see” the molecules from which they are made. With few research reactors like NIST’s around, there are few experts who know how to conduct experiments and analyze data from neutron studies. In response, NIST launched the nSoft consortium in 2012.
Credit: Boualem Hammouda

nSoft works at the pace of business: Once trained, industry members can get timely access to the instrument, helping them meet product development milestones. The outcomes from experiments are shared publicly, so that all U.S. industry sectors may benefit. While the results of experiments are often published in scholarly journals, helping industry scientists conduct their own experiments is an accelerated form of technical transfer from federal research facilities to the people who benefit.

To date, nSoft has helped companies develop therapeutics with a longer shelf-life and higher strength materials, and provided key insight into how plants can stay hydrated in arid and harsh environments.

11 current members: Amgen, Aramco North America, Corning, DowDuPont, Genentech, L'Oreal, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Regeneron, Solvay, and Toyota North America

3 new members signing contracts, 20 companies in discussions

4 companies have published manuscripts using data obtained through nSoft

3 companies have personnel located long term on the NIST campus to execute nSoft-related research

Released May 15, 2018, Updated February 13, 2020