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NIST Combinatorial Methods Center (NCMC)


Our goal is to enable industrial acquisition of combinatorial and high-throughput measurement approaches for polymeric materials research and development. Leveraging a unique "open source" business model for collaborating with industry, the NIST Combinatorial Methods Center (NCMC) develops and demonstrates new "combi" measurement methods that accelerate the discovery and optimization of polymer-based materials for applications, including advanced coatings, electronics, and adhesives.   





Established in 2002, the NCMC combines pioneering research and customer engagement to foster wide-spread adaptation of combinatorial and high-throughput methodologies. NCMC research addresses key challenges faced by polymer researchers who want to employ combi. In particular, the NCMC creates new ways of preparing combinatorial libraries for polymeric systems. In addition, our team develops high-throughput strategies for measuring the chemical, structural, and performance properties of polymer libraries. In each case, the NCMC team leverages and advances technologies, such as microfluidic "lab on a chip" approaches and continuous gradient fabrication that can be adopted by large and small research efforts.

In complement to this research, the NCMC developed "open source" customer engagement models that promotes discussion of key measurement issues and collaboration between NIST and industry. The NCMC industry consortium is highly effective for disseminating NIST-developed methods and best practices to industry, assessing emerging industrial combi metrology needs, and forming a community of stakeholders for advancing the field. In addition, non-proprietary NCMC "Focus Projects" enable NIST to partner with one or more companies to develop specific combi measurement solutions, without the intellectual property barriers that can hamper government/industry collaborations.






Major Accomplishments

  • Discovery of one new material using traditional methods can cost $20M and can take 2 years to 10 years to accomplish. In contrast, combinatorial and high-throughput methods can result in new materials in one fifth of the time and at one fifth of the cost.
  • More than 30 companies have benefited from NCMC membership, including Air Products, Arkema, Bayer, BASF, Dow, ExxonMobil, Honeywell, Hysitron, Intel, LORD, L'Oreal, ICI/National Starch, Procter and Gamble, PPG, Rhodia, Symyx, 3M, Unilever, and Vistakon.
  • More than 25 companies and universities worldwide have adopted combi and high-throughput measurement methods developed at NIST.
  • A leader in the field: the NCMC team has published more than 70 articles on combi methods in top journals, has co-organized more than 15 symposia at national and international meetings, including the American Chemical Society, American Physical Society, and Materials Research Society; and has pioneered a new Gordon Research Conference.

In conjunction with its research program, the NIST Combinatorial Methods Center (NCMC) fosters acquisition of combinatorial and high-throughput techniques by materials scientists through a concerted customer engagement effort aimed at disseminating methods and best practices, assessing metrology needs, and leadership of the growing community of combi stakeholders.

Now in its sixth year, the NCMC industry consortium includes 21 member institutions (see below). The consortium represents a broad cross-section of specialty chemical, polymers, coatings, cosmetics, and personal care companies, brought together by NIST due to their mutual interest in combinatorial and high-throughput methodologies. Members contribute to the Center through an annual fee of $10k, which supports the outreach investment NIST has built for this community. Because of its unique "open source" model (no proprietary information is considered by the NCMC), the consortium represents an environment in which companies, even competitors, can contribute to a discussion of priority combi metrology needs. The main forum for this discussion is the NCMC Industry Workshops. Occurring every six months to accommodate this fast moving field, 12 NCMC Workshops have been held since 2002. The latest four workshops served to gauge combi developments in emerging fields, assess persistent challenges, and calibrate NCMC research directions.


NCMC-9: Combinatorial Methods for Nanostructured Materials, was held April 24-25, 2006 at NIST Gaithersburg. The meeting examined key measurement needs faced by researchers in the development of nanostructured polymer materials, with the goal of identifying priority combi methods to meet these emerging challenges. The workshop technical program included expert lectures from NIST and institutions worldwide, and demonstrations in NCMC facilities. In addition, a NIST-led discussion session led to a roadmap report, NISTIR 7332, that details key potential combi methods for this emerging class of materials. The event was attended by more than 35 industrial and academic representatives, primarily from NCMC member institutions.

On October 5-6,2006, the Center hosted NCMC-10: Persistent Challenges in Combinatorial Materials Science. The workshop considered challenges that continue to face implementers of combinatorial methods, and emerging solutions to these problems. The discussion resulted in roadmaps describing priority technologies to be developed and top topics for national and international combi symposia.

NCMC-11: Complex Interfaces, held April 30 to May 1, 2007, served to gauge measurement needs to be addressed by the Center's Mechanics of Complex Interfaces project. With more than 30 industry representatives in attendance, the workshop examined new library fabrication routes and high-throughput measurement strategies for addressing the complex surfaces and interfaces faced by the developers of advanced coatings, hybrid materials, multilayer devices and adhesives.

The most recent workshop, NCMC-12: Data Acquisition, Handling, and Visualization, held November 1-2, 2007, focused on the informatics systems that integrate a combi workflow. For this forum, the Center brought together combi researchers and representatives from instrument vendor companies to discuss needed computing methods and infrastructures, discuss instrument and software development priorities, and discuss how products could be tuned for inclusion into a high-throughput measurement system. An upcoming report will summarize these findings.

The NCMC is also a leader in the wider international community of combi researchers. Since 2002, the Center team has co-organized more than 15 combi-focused symposia at international venues. In 2006 to 2007, this included events with the American Chemical Society, Materials Research Society, and the International Combinatorial  Materials  Science Workshops. Most recently, the Center led the DPOLY Short Course at the 2008 American Physical Society March Meeting.

Created October 23, 2008, Updated October 14, 2021