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NIST's Deserted Island Challenge

NIST's Deserted Island Challenge: How would you use your reference materials to survive?
Credit: B. Hayes/NIST

Our Standard Reference Materials (SRMs) help labs ensure the accuracy of the measurements they depend on. But can they help you thrive on a deserted island?

Find your initials below to see which SRMs are yours to work with, then hop over to Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter to tell us how you’ll use them to survive.

Interested in learning more about SRMs, why NIST creates them and how they're used? Check out this feature story.

First Name

A: Flooring Radiant Panel (SRM 1012)
SRM 1012 is made up of three sheets of paperboard. It is used to calibrate the equipment that measures the fire hazard of different flooring systems (such as carpets and hardwood) in building corridors and exits. 

B: Cigarette Ignition Strength Standard (SRM 1082)
SRM 1082 is similar to an actual cigarette and consists of one carton containing 10 packs of 20 cigarettes. The SRM helps determine if commercially sold cigarettes properly extinguish themselves after having been smoked.

C: Oxygen in Valve Steel (SRM 1093)
SRM 1093 is a steel rod, four inches (10 centimeters) in length and a quarter of an inch (6 millimeters) wide. The SRM helps promote long life in vehicles’ internal combustion engines by enabling researchers to validate the accuracy of oxygen-level measurements in steel engine valves.  

D: Stainless Steel (SRM 123c)
SRM 123c consists of 150 grams of stainless-steel chips certified for the elements in product manufacturing specifications. The steel SRMs help to ensure steel alloys properly resist corrosion in applications from medical joint replacements to high temperature turbine components in aircraft. And yes, stainless steel is used in cooking utensils and tableware.

E: Trace Metals in Frozen Human Blood (SRM 1401)
SRM 1401 is made up of four vials of frozen human blood containing trace elements at varying levels. The SRM helps support the quality assurance of clinical measurements and analytical methods for potentially toxic metals (cobalt, chromium, manganese and molybdenum) that can be released into the human bloodstream through the degradation of some metal-on-metal medical joint replacement implants. The information is also used to assess the condition of the implant and long-term health effects of exposure to elevated levels of these metals in the human body.

F: Superconducting Wire (SRM 1457)
SRM 1457 consists of a 2.2-meter-long spool of niobium-titanium wire stabilized in copper.
The SRM helps calibrate systems that measure the critical current of superconductors — materials that  conduct electrical current with zero resistance — used in MRI machines, particle accelerators and experimental fusion reactors. 

G: Bone Meal (SRM 1486)
SRM 1486 consists of 50 grams of steamed, ground-up animal bone powder that was sieved and blended to a homogenous state. It helps clinical laboratories evaluate the biological and environmental impact of elements in bone and helps with low-level mercury measurements as part of efforts to increase focus on the environmental impact of mercury. 

H: Apple Leaves (SRM 1515)
SRM 1515 consists of 50 grams of dried leaves from Golden Delicious and Rome apples. It helps evaluate analytical methods that determine trace elements in botanical materials or agricultural food products.

I: Meat Homogenate (SRM 1546a)
SRM 1546a consists of four cans of pork and chicken products blended together in a commercial process. It helps meat processors verify the accuracy of the nutritional values they assign to products such as hot dogs and other canned meat products. 

J: Typical Diet (SRM 1548a)
SRM 1548a consists of two bottles of 6.5 grams of freeze-dried food homogenate that originated from food menus used for metabolic studies, which were designed to represent the typical American diet in the early 1990s (breakfast, lunch and dinner with associated condiments). It has become a national standard for nutrition and food research and serves as a good candidate for evaluating potential contamination in foods.

K: Wheat Flour (SRM 1567b)
SRM 1567b consists of 50 grams of wheat flour material stored in a bottle. This SRM helps support the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act by letting researchers evaluate test methods that manufacturers use to prepare nutrition labels on processed foods.

L: Rice Flour (SRM 1568b)
SRM 1568b consists of a bottle containing 50 grams of rice flour from a single lot of river rice by a commercial manufacturer. This SRM reflects the environment in which it is grown, yielding information about its exposure to environmental contaminants, and helps researchers investigate safety concerns over arsenic in food products made with rice.

M: Trace Elements in Pine Needles (SRM 1575a)
SRM 1575a contains 50 grams of dried, jet-milled, radiation sterilized and blended pine needles. The pine needles were collected in North Carolina from loblolly pine trees. This SRM helps calibrate test methods and provides quality assurance for measurements of element content in botanical materials, which serve as indicators of plant health and overall monitors of environmental pollution.

N: Urban Dust (SRM 1649b)
SRM 1649b was collected during a two-year period in a Navy Yard parking lot in Washington, D.C. The resulting bulk atmospheric particulate matter (APM) was sieved, homogenized and packaged in 2-gram units. The SRM was characterized for a large number of organic and inorganic components, and is used as a matrix standard for measurement of these species in APM collected in the field.

O: Diesel Particulate Matter (SRM 1650b)
SRM 1650b contains 200 milligrams of diesel particulate matter (DPM) from a heavy-duty diesel engine. This material has been characterized for a number of polycyclic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and nitro-PAHs, and supports ongoing research involving collection and chemical characterization of DPM because of the potential health risks of these inherent compounds.

P: Propane in Air (SRM 1668b)
SRM 1668b consists of a primary gas mixture contained in a specialized aluminum gas cylinder. The SRM is used to calibrate instruments for testing emissions from combustion sources such as power plants and cars. This makes sure gases produced by the specialty gas industry meet Environmental Protection Agency requirements.

Q: Linerboard (SRM 1810a)
This SRM consists of 50 sheets of thick paper sealed in a moisture-resistant, foil-lined package and is used to test the adhesive strength of pressure-sensitive adhesive tapes. 

R: Ethanol-Water Solutions (SRM 1828c)
SRM 1828c is made up of six ampuls of ethanol-water solutions. It is used to calibrate instruments that measure if ethanol (alcohol) in your blood or breath is over the legal limit. 

S: Infant/Adult Nutritional Formula (SRM 1869)
SRM 1869 is made up of 10 packets containing 10 grams of milk, whey and soy-based, hybrid infant/adult nutritional powder. It helps determine the concentrations of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in products such as infant and adult formula. 

T: Lake Superior Fish Tissue (SRM 1946)
SRM 1946 consists of five bottles of homogenized frozen tissue of lake trout collected from Lake Superior, value assigned for 75 chemical contaminants. Environmental monitoring labs use the SRM to check their sample processes and test methods as well as assess the Great Lakes’ recovery from chemicals found in predator fish. The SRM also helps food industry labs check their analytical methods for measuring constituents such as fatty acids, calories and protein content.

U: Chlorinated Pesticides in Hexane (SRM 2261) 
This SRM consists of five ampuls containing 1.2 milliliters of pesticide solution. Analytical chemistry laboratories use this SRM to calibrate their instruments and identify the concentration of chlorinated pesticides in their samples. 

V: Ignitable Liquids Test Mixture (SRM 2285)
SRM 2285 consists of five ampuls containing 2.5 milliliters of ignitable solution made up of 15 various residue marker compounds. It helps calibrate instruments used mainly for arsenic investigations by classifying the ignitable liquid residue. 

W: Cytomegalovirus DNA (SRM 2366a)
SRM 2366a consists of 150 microliters of extracted DNA in a buffer solution, contained in one sterile perfluoroalkoxy vial. It helps health care professionals more accurately diagnose and monitor  cytomegalovirus infections, a common pathogen that is particularly dangerous for infants and persons with weakened immune systems. 

X: Standard Bullet Replica (SRM 2460a)
This SRM consists of a nickel-and-gold-coated polyurethane standard bullet mounted on a 3D printed  holder. Forensic scientists use SRM 2460a to verify the calibration of their imaging systems for “fingerprinting” bullets, which helps them link firearms to suspects in crimes. 

Y: Single Wall Carbon Nanotubes (SRM 2483)
SRM 2483 is made up of 250 milligrams of nanotube soot in a bottle and helps with material comparison as well as chemical and toxicity analysis. Carbon nanotubes have applications in wearable electronics, structural materials, and biomedical and sensor applications.

Z: Powdered Paint (SRM 2582)
SRM 2582 consists of 20 grams of powdered paint collected from the interior surfaces of houses, blended and certified for lead content. This SRM helps calibrate instruments and evaluate methods used to determine lead in paint. Lead has been banned from paint for over 50 years, because when ingested it is toxic to human and animal health.

Last Name

A: Portland Cement Clinker (SRM 2687a)
This SRM consists of five sealed vials each containing 8 grams of crushed portland cement clinker with certified values on phase composition. Clinker is an industrial product that forms the basis of portland cement, and the cement industry uses SRMs 2687a to help quantify phases (solid, crystalline mineral-like components) in clinker and cement as well as validate individual laboratories’ test protocols worldwide.

B: Coal Fly Ash (SRM 1633c)
SRM 1633c consists of 75 grams of the powdered material that remains after coal is combusted to generate electricity at coal-fired power plants. Organizations interested in environmental compliance use the SRM to evaluate their test methods for identifying inorganic and toxic elements in coal fly ash. 

C: Gulf of Mexico Crude Oil (SRM 2779)
This SRM consists of five ampuls containing 1.2 milliliters of oil, which was collected directly from the Macondo well during response operations to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The SRM was characterized for a number of organic compounds including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, hopanes and steranes, and is used to help assess the levels of these compounds in crude oils.

D: Obsidian Rock (SRM 278)
SRM 278 consists of finely powdered obsidian rock obtained from Clear Lake in Oregon. It is used to validate the methods and instruments for analyzing geological type materials.

E: Domestic Sludge (SRM 2781)
The SRM consists of a bottle containing 40 grams of dried, pulverized domestic sludge. Scientists use SRM 2781 to calibrate their tests for detecting heavy metals and organic pollutants in sewage sludge, which is sometimes used as fertilizer. 

F: Trace Terrorist Explosives Simulants (SRM 2905)
SRM 2905 consists of four different test substances simulating trace residues of C-4 plastic explosives and TNT. With this SRM, instrument developers, academic researchers and government labs can evaluate the equipment used in the detection of these explosive compounds.

G: Ginkgo biloba (Leaves) (SRM 3246)
This SRM consists of five bottles containing 3 grams of ground leaves from a gingko tree. Dietary supplement manufacturers can evaluate their test methods for determination of flavonoids, terpene lactones and toxic elements found in Ginkgo biloba and similar materials using this SRM. In addition, this SRM has been characterized for its DNA sequence, allowing the dietary ingredient testing community to reduce the chances of accidental or intentional contamination of dietary supplement products. 

H: Protein Drink Mix (SRM 3252)
This SRM consists of five heat-sealed, aluminized pouches each containing 10 grams of a commercial protein drink mix blend. Protein drink manufacturers use this SRM to ensure consumers are getting all the vitamins, amino acids and other nutrients that their products promise. 

I: Multivitamin Tablets (SRM 3280)
The SRM consists of five bottles, each containing 30 whole tablets. The SRM is provided in this form because some vitamins are coated or encapsulated to provide stability, unlike grinding which would compromise the stability of these vitamins. SRM 3280 is used to evaluate methods when listing nutrients on multivitamin and multi-element dietary supplement labels, or when checking for elemental contaminants present in supplements. 

J: Low-Calorie Cranberry Juice Cocktail (SRM 3282)
The SRM consists of five ampuls containing 1.2 milliliters of liquid similar to the store-bought low-calorie cranberry juice cocktail. It checks the accuracy of test methods used to identify nutritional elements, sugars and organic acids in cranberry food items, especially dietary supplements. 

K: Blueberry (Fruit) (SRM 3287)
The SRM consists of five packets containing 5 grams of freeze-dried, powdered blueberry fruit. The SRM is used for evaluating analytical methods for these nutrients in blueberries and similar food materials and can also be used for quality assurance when assigning values to in-house control materials. 

L: Dry Cat Food (SRM 3290)
SRM 3290 consists of five heat-sealed, aluminized pouches containing 10 grams of commercially blended dry cat food material. It ensures pet food adheres to federal and state nutrition standards, and also can be used to test for harmful substances. 

M: Iodized Table Salt (SRM 3530)
This SRM consists of one specially sealed bottle containing 200 grams of commercially available iodized table salt. SRM 3530 helps validate methods for determining the amount of iodide in table salt or similar materials. Iodine deficiency is a preventable condition that can lead to developmental problems and enlargement of the thyroid gland. 

N: Organic Contaminants in Smokers' Urine (SRM 3672)
This SRM consists of five vials containing 10 milliliters of frozen urine with organic contaminant metabolites from real-world exposures. SRM 3672 helps efforts to monitor the human population’s exposure to environmental contaminants including those that can be produced when smoking cigarettes or ingesting plastic additives. 

O: Natural Uranium Radioactivity Standard (SRM 4321d)
This SRM consists of 5 milliliters of standardized radioactive uranium-238, 235 and 234 in a suitably stable solution. Environmental measurement and geophysical research communities use SRM 4321d to calibrate instruments for radiochemical procedures and to identify the age of artifacts excavated at archeological sites (230Th/U dating).

P: Human Lung Environmental Radioactivity Standard (SRM 4351)
SRM 4351 consists of 45 grams of freeze-dried human lung tissue vacuum sealed in a glass bottle. It is primarily used as a quality control material to determine the accuracy of measurements of plutonium and other radionuclides in contaminated lungs and related biological material. 

Q: Brick Clay (SRM 679)
SRM 679 is made up of 75 grams of air-dried, ball milled and sieved brick clay, collected from an inactive clay pit in Maryland. It helps determine elemental components in clay or similar materials. 

R: Glass Sand (SRM 81a)
SRM 81a consists of 75 grams of glass sand, the base material used in glassmaking, in a ground powder form. It helps make sure the raw materials used in glass production are meeting the manufacturer’s standards. 

S: Spray-Dried Whole Egg (RM 8445)
Reference material (RM) 8445 consists of a bottle containing 5 grams of rapidly dried egg powder. The RM helps evaluate test kits for detecting allergenic egg proteins and provides a single, broadly available material for the allergen research community. 

T: Krill Oil (RM 8037)
This reference material (RM) contains three tins of approximately 4.5 milliliters of krill oil made from Antarctic krill, small crustaceans that feed on phytoplankton. Krill oil contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and the RM helps analytical laboratories validate their methods analyzing phospholipid-rich dietary supplements for fatty acid content. 

U: Wheat Hardness (kernel form) (RM 8441a)
This reference material (RM) consists of 50 pouches each containing five pouches of hard wheats and five pouches of soft wheats. Each individual pouch contains 20 grams of wheats. RM 8441a helps calibrate instruments used for determining the hardness of single-kernel wheat, and the grain industry uses it to help design more efficient milling processes for the grains into their finished products.

V: Eucalyptus Hardwood (RM 8496)
This reference material (RM) is a standard paper produced from hardwood and consists of a carton containing 10 standard lap sheets that each weigh one pound (454 grams). Paper manufacturers can compare the RM’s properties such as brightness, density and pH against their own paper products, and can also assess reproducibility of the overall manufacturing process.

W: Neutron Density Monitor Wire (SRM 953)
SRM 953 consists of cobalt in aluminum wire approximately 0.5 millimeters in diameter and one meter in length. This SRM is used to characterize a reactor’s neutron current in order to aid in designing new reactors, understanding mechanisms of radiation damage and assuring quality control in chemical analyses utilizing neutrons. 

X: Plastic Clay (SRM 98b)
SRM 98b is plastic clay that typically contains three minerals: kaolinite, mica and quartz. The SRM consists of 60 grams of air-dried and ball-milled powdered clay and helps determine the elemental components in clay or material of a similar matrix. 

Y: Ductile Cast Iron (SRM 341)
SRM 341 consists of 150 grams of ductile iron chips certified for the elements in product manufacturing specifications. Ductile iron is used because of its versatility and higher performance at a lower cost compared to other metals and helps labs validate their test results. The SRM has numerous applications including in the automotive industry, such as a car’s suspension and braking systems, in containers storing nuclear waste materials and wherever strong metal casting are required.

Z: Fluorspar (SRM 79a)
SRM 79a consists of one bottle containing 120 grams of fine acid-grade powder made from the mineral fluorite (commonly known as fluorspar). The SRM is used for test methods of imported fluorspar that determines its quality for industrial applications, such as refrigerants and high-performance plastics.

Created July 13, 2020, Updated August 2, 2022