The Chemical Sciences Division serves as the Nation's reference laboratory for chemical compositional measurements and standards to enhance U.S. industry's productivity and competitiveness; assure equity in trade; and provide quality assurance for chemical measurements used for assessing and improving public health, safety, and the environment. To support the development of measurement methods and standards, the Division maintains core expertise in: (1) analytical mass spectrometry, (2) analytical separation science, (3) atomic and x-ray fluorescence spectrometry, (4) gas metrology, (5) nuclear analytical methods, (6) nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry, and classical and electroanalytical chemistry. These core competencies provide the measurement infrastructure to carry out the Division's broad mission with flexibility to respond to changing and evolving national priorities.
Nearly 50% of the Division support is directed toward fundamental and applied research to support the measurements and standards activities in the Division focus areas, which are a subset of the broader MML/NIST areas of emphasis. The current Division focus areas are: (1) clinical diagnostics and health status markers; (2) environmental monitoring; (3) food dietary supplements and nutritional assessment; (4) industrial commodities and advanced materials characterization; (5) forensics and homeland security; (6) nanoparticle characterization, and (7) hydrogen economy.
Research in fundamental chemical metrology focuses on understanding the basic principles and science that support the identification and quantification of chemical species using the core analytical techniques in a wide variety of materials. Research activities are directed towards understanding the measurement processes in all of the Division core expertise areas/techniques in order to improve the measurement process.
The distinction between fundamental and applied research within the Division is often minimal. The development of new measurement/quantification approaches that have broad application to various measurement areas are considered to be fundamental chemical metrology. Recent activities in fundamental chemical metrology include: (1) developing approaches to assess compound purity; (2) understanding the factors that control or affect the separation process in liquid chromatography stationary phases; (3) developing advance calibration approaches; (4) developing approaches to protein quantification; and (5) developing novel instrumentation for submicron neutron radiography.
The majority of our applied research involves the development of new analytical methods and/or reference measurement procedures which are ultimately used for the development of SRMs. Current applied research activities, most of which are described in more detail under other program areas, include the development of: (1) reference measurement procedures for clinical markers in serum and urine; (2) higher order methods for vitamins in supplements, food, and serum; (3) methods for botanical dietary supplement markers; (4) methods for emerging environmental contaminants. Another aspect of both fundamental and applied chemical metrology is the development of new measurement competencies within the Division. Recently the Division has focused on developing new or expanded competencies in the following areas: isotopic metrology, high resolution chromatographic separation approaches (e.g., GCxGC, monolithic LC columns, ultra high pressure LC), and techniques and approaches for chemical characterization of nanoparticles.