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Sensor Science Division

The Division advances the measurement science, standards, and applications for dimensional, optical radiation, and thermodynamic quantities to support U.S. industry and trade. We maintain and disseminate standards for three of the seven SI base units: the kelvin (temperature), the meter (length), and the candela (luminous intensity).

Welcome to the Sensor Science Division

The Sensor Science Division (SSD) is based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and operates within the Physical Measurement Laboratory at NIST.

Our Vision is to be the primary driver for innovation in the SI-traceable measurement of dimensional, thermodynamic, and optical radiation quantities. Our work enables the next generation of equitable standards to promote US economic growth and security.

Our Mission is to foster the next generation of SI-traceable dimensional, thermodynamic, and optical radiation measurements and their application by providing calibrations, standards, and innovations that improve U.S. industrial competitiveness and quality-of-life.

SSD has institutional responsibility for the realization and dissemination of 3 of the 7 base units of the International System of Units (SI): the meter, the kelvin, and the candela. To promote world-wide standardization, SSD staff engage with the Consultative Committees for Length (CCL), for Mass and Related Quantities (CCM), for Photometry and Radiometry (CCPR), and for Thermometry (CCT) under the International Committee for Weights and Measures (CIPM). This participation helps ensure the international comparability and international recognition of the SI-based measurements and standards disseminated by the Division. As pictured below, the division is divided into 3 technical areas which align with these 3 base SI units.

sensor science division flowchart

The division provides measurement science, reference materials, reference data, and technologies to foster innovation and confidence in measurements needed to advance these fields. In partnership with U.S. industry, government agencies, and scientific institutions, SSD performs fundamental and applied research on the measurement of length; temperature; infrared-to-extreme-ultraviolet radiation; pressure and vacuum; surface and interface optical and dimensional properties; gas and liquid flow; liquid volume; and humidity.

Focus Areas

News and Updates

Hooked on Photonics? Math to the Rescue

Photonic thermometers – which measure temperature using light – have been around in optical fiber form for decades. These devices, called fiber Bragg gratings

Back to the Future: Gear Edition

As mechanical objects, gears have been around for so long that people may take them for granted. But gears are sophisticated parts that play a vital role in

A Primary Standard for Measuring Vacuum

A novel, quantum-based vacuum gauge system invented by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has passed its first test to be

Events

Industry Impacts

Reliable Vaccine Storage

As much as 35 percent of vaccines shipped worldwide is wasted because it is transported or stored at temperatures too high or too low. NIST’s research is

Flow Meters for Natural Gas Delivery

The accuracy of flow meters measuring natural gas has enormous commercial importance. NIST is developing a new technique to calibrate large flows at high

Awards

2022 IES Fellow - Cameron Miller

For outstanding leadership and technical contributions to standardization of measurements of light sources and lighting products over two

Press Coverage

Patents

OPTICAL REFRACTION BAROMETER

NIST Inventors
Kevin O Douglass , Stephen Eckel , Jacob Edmond Ricker and Jay H. Hendricks
patent description In short a method to improve upon the current FLOC system, for measuring pressure based on refractivity changes, by using a single laser and direct measure of the difference between the lasers without heterodyne measurement.
Patent Images and description for 10,955,617

High-Resolution Photonic Thermometer Article

NIST Inventors
Kevin O Douglass , Zeeshan Ahmed and Nikolai Klimov
Patent Description NIST has created a method that sense temperature variations on a µK-level using an on-chip integrated passive photonic device that features a high-quality factor nanocavity. The method includes the (i) improved design of nanobeam photonic crystal cavity, (ii) specialized fiber­

TRIPLE POINT IMMERSION CELL ARTICLE

NIST Inventors
Jay Nanninga and Weston L. Tew
patent description The invention is an integrated system for the realization of a single non-metal triple point via immersion-type fixed point cells. The base design can accommodate immersion-type triple-point cells of either argon, krypton, or xenon, or any other non-metal fixed point within an

Contacts

Acting Division Chief

Office Manager