nSoft is a consortium designed to deliver technology and expertise within neutron-based measurement science to U.S. based industrial researchers. For over 50 years, neutron methods around the world have been a powerful route to answering key questions in the development and manufacture of “soft materials” such as biodegradable plastics, efficient membranes for energy storage, high strength low density composites for transportation, protein based biopharmaceuticals for cancer treatment, additive systems for water management in soils, and a range of soaps, lotions, and transdermal products.
However, due to the prohibitive costs associated with neutron methods, traditional technology transfer is rarely an option for even large multinational companies. Recognizing this well documented barrier to adoption by key stakeholders1, NIST developed a new model of collaboration built around “expertise transfer”. Within the nSoft environment, researchers from member companies participate in publicly accessible research led by NIST staff at the NIST Center for Neutron Research and across the campus. The members drive the topics of interest, leveraging the deep expertise of NIST in measurement science to develop new measurement methods, data models, and performance metrics in concert with member researchers.
The impact of the consortium is based on close and extended collaboration, where member companies often have staff positioned on the NIST campus for extended periods of time. Members, having participated on-site at the NIST Center for Neutron Research, gain the expertise in the use of equipment and software targeted toward their sector of manufacturing. The public benefits from more efficient development of a national resource and a resulting higher return on investment of federal tax dollars, moving high powered science efficiently into the U.S. economy.
1 "Science for Energy Technology: Strengthening the Link between Basic Research and Industry", DOE BESAC Subcommittee on Science and Energy Policy, August 2010.