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Physical Measurement Laboratory Divisions

Applied Physics

The mission of the Applied Physics Division is to advance measurement science and technology throughout the electromagnetic spectrum in areas of critical importance to national priority needs. These areas include advanced manufacturing, national security, biological innovations, climate change science, and clean energy. The Division provides industry, and its suppliers and customers, with comprehensive measurement capabilities and standards, as well as traceability to those standards. 


Microsystems and Nanotechnology

The division will focus on advancing nanofabrication technologies and developing integrated measurement microsystems.


Nanoscale Device Characterization

The Nanoscale Device Characterization Division (NDCD) transforms nano- and atom-scale technologies by advancing measurement science and fundamental knowledge.


Quantum Sensors

The Quantum Sensors Division develops advanced photon and particle sensors to measure energy and power more precisely than traditional technologies. The sensors make use of (1) quantum effects, especially superconductivity, to provide high responsivity and (2) ultra-low temperatures to suppress noise. Signals of interest span the electromagnetic spectrum from millimeter-waves produced in the earliest moments of the universe to gamma-rays produced by nuclear fuel.


Quantum Measurement

The Quantum Measurement Division (QMD) provides the physical foundation for the International System of Units (Système International d'Unités or SI), colloquially referred to as the metric system.

The division is currently heavily engaged in the redefinition of the SI that is expected to occur in 2018. We support this effort through R&D and through interactions with the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) and its consultative committees including the Consultative Committee for Units (CCU), the Consultative Committee for Electricity and Magnetism (CCEM), and the Consultative Committee for Mass and Related Quantities (CCM). 


Quantum Physics

The Quantum Physics Division works on fundamental, highly accurate, measurements and theoretical analyses, using quantum physics, quantum optics, chemical physics, gravitational physics, and geophysical measurements.


Radiation Physics

The Radiation Physics Division develops, maintains and disseminates the measurement standards for ionizing radiations and radioactivity in the United States.  We also pursue research in the fundamental physical interactions of ionizing and non-ionizing (terahertz) radiation with matter, including in and affecting biological systems. Our theoretical and experimental efforts support radiation and nuclear applications in health care and worker protection, enhance environmental protection, and support national security and defense. 


Sensor Science

The Sensor Science Division advances the measurement science, standards, and applications for sensing optical power, temperature, humidity, pressure, vacuum, flow, and related physical phenomena to support U.S. industry and trade. The Division has institutional responsibility for maintaining two of the seven SI base units: the unit of temperature, the kelvin, and the unit of luminous intensity, the candela.


Time and Frequency

The Time and Frequency Division maintains the standard for frequency and time interval for the United States, provides official time to the United States, and carries out a broad program of research and service activities in time and frequency metrology.


Weights and Measures

The Office of Weights and Measures promotes uniformity in U.S. weights and measures laws, regulations, and standards to achieve equity between buyers and sellers in the marketplace. This enhances consumer confidence, enables U.S. businesses to compete fairly at home and abroad, and strengthens the U.S. economy.

Created March 31, 2016, Updated November 17, 2023