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Surface and Interface Metrology Group

Develops and disseminates measurement methods and documentary and artifact standards for the characterization of the optical and topographical properties of surfaces, particularly surfaces and surface finishes important in optical instrumentation, forensics, and consumer products.

The group’s mission is to maintain the national scales for fundamental optical and topographical properties of surfaces and to advance the state of the art of these measurements. The group works closely with leading U.S. optics manufacturers and metrology instrument manufacturers, government agencies, and academic research institutes to provide new measurement solutions for critical needs. We lead national and international documentary standards efforts that prescribe test methods that ensure product quality and enable global trade. Efforts are undertaken in close collaboration with academic researchers, government agencies, and industry, including stakeholders within the aerospace, forensics, defense, semiconductor, precision manufacturing, and remote-sensing communities. The topographical surface effort realizes and disseminates the SI unit of length for measurements of nanostructure, roughness, waviness, and form for surfaces with vertical dimensions ranging from nanometers to micrometers and horizontal dimensions ranging from micrometers to hundreds of millimeters. Optical properties measurements include index of refraction, surface color and appearance, diffuse and regular transmittance, and diffuse, regular, and angle-resolved surface reflectance.

Calibration Services, Standard Reference Materials, and Documentary Standards

  • Documentary Standards
    The group’s staff actively participate in and lead the development of Documentary Standards on various Standards Developing Organizations (SDOs) by providing the necessary expertise, fundamental measurement science and advanced technologies. We engage with the following SDOs: ANSI-OEOSC, ASME, ASTM, CIE, ISO, and OSAC.

Collaboration Opportunities

The Surface and Interface Metrology Group welcomes opportunities to collaborate on joint research, technology, and standards development projects to advance the characterization of the optical and topographical properties of surfaces. The group provides multiple opportunities for students, scientists, industry, academia, and other R&D laboratories to collaborate. Specific opportunities depend on current areas of interest within the Group, but may include undergraduate research fellowship, postdoctoral fellowships, visiting scientist, and guest researchers as well as various cooperative research arrangements ranging from formal agreements, such as CRADA, Consortia, and interagency agreements, to informal collaborations. For more details, see Employment and Internship Opportunities and Collaboration Opportunities.

Projects and Programs

Reflectance Measurements of Human Skin

The purpose of this human subjects study is to collect high-quality measurements of the reflectance spectrum of human skin and assess the variability across the

Optical scattering from surfaces

We study how material properties, surface topography, and contaminants affect the distribution of light scattered from surfaces. Our aim is to support industry

Optical Polarization Metrology

This program aims to improve the metrology of optical polarization by developing new measurement methods and theoretical understanding of polarization phenomena

Tools and Instruments

Reference transmittance densiometer

The Reference Transmission Densitometer (RTD) is the national reference instrument for standard diffuse visual transmittance density measurements for x-ray and

Reference 0:45 reflectometer

The primary purpose of the 0:45 reflectometer is to disseminate color standards to the color and appearance community. The instrument was designed to provide


Modeled integrated scatter tool (MIST)

The MIST program has been developed to provide users with a general application to model an integrated scattering system. The program performs an integration of

News and Updates


Spectropolarimetry of primitive phototrophs as global surface biosignatures

William Sparks, M. N. Parenteau, Robert E. Blankenship, Thomas Germer, C.H. L. Patty, Kimberly M. Bott, Charles M. Telesco, Victoria S. Meadows
Photosynthesis is an ancient metabolic process that began on the early Earth, offering plentiful energy to organisms that utilize it, to the extent that they

Firearm examination: Examiner judgments and computer-based comparisons

Erwin J. Mattijssen, Cilia Witteman, Charles Berger, Xiaoyu Alan Zheng, Johannes A. Soons, Reinoud Stoel
Forensic firearm examination provides the court of law with information about the source of fired cartridge cases. We assessed the validity of source decisions



Group Leader

General Information