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The Lead

Polonium’s most stable isotope gets revised half-life measurement

September 12, 2014 9:14 am | by NIST | News | Comments

Scientists at NIST have determined that polonium-209, the longest-lived isotope of this radioactive heavy element, has a half-life about 25% longer than the previously determined value, which had been in use for decades. The new NIST measurements could affect geophysical studies such as the dating of sediment samples from ocean and lake floors.

Scientists shed light on organic photovoltaic characteristics

September 3, 2014 4:05 pm | News | Comments

The most familiar photovoltaic (PV) designs use...

Optical microscope technique confirmed as valid nano measurement tool

August 27, 2014 11:22 am | by Chad Boutin, NIST | News | Comments

Recent experiments have confirmed that a technique developed several years ago at NIST can...

Team finds first evidence of spin symmetry in atoms

August 22, 2014 9:07 am | by Laura Ost, NIST | News | Comments

Just as diamonds with perfect symmetry may be unusually brilliant jewels, the quantum world has...

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Six nines: Ultra-enriched silicon paves the road to quantum computing

August 12, 2014 12:27 pm | News | Comments

Using a relatively straightforward technique, a team of NIST researchers has created what may be the most highly enriched silicon currently being produced. The material is more than 99.9999% pure silicon-28, with less than 1 part per million (ppm) of the problematic isotope silicon-29. Many quantum computing schemes require isotopically pure silicon, for example to act as a substrate for qubits.

Therapy for ultraviolet laser beams: Hydrogen-treated fibers

August 12, 2014 8:17 am | by Laura Ost, NIST | News | Comments

To make a better optical fiber for transmitting laser beams, the first idea that comes to mind is probably not a nice long hydrogen bath. And yet, scientists have known for years that hydrogen can alter the performance of optical fibers, which are often used to transmit or even generate laser light in optical devices. Researchers at NIST have put this hydrogen “cure” to practical use.

NIST ion duet offers tunable module for quantum simulator

August 7, 2014 10:36 am | by Laura Ost, NIST | News | Comments

Physicists at NIST have demonstrated a pas de deux of atomic ions that combines the fine choreography of dance with precise individual control. NIST’s ion duet is a component for a flexible quantum simulator that could be scaled up in size and configured to model quantum systems of a complexity that overwhelms traditional computer simulations.

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NIST corrosion lab tests suggest need for underground gas tank retrofits

July 30, 2014 7:40 am | by Laura Ost, NIST | News | Comments

A hidden hazard lurks beneath many of the roughly 156,000 gas stations across the U.S. The hazard is corrosion in parts of underground gas storage tanks. In recent years, field inspectors in nine states have reported many rapidly corroding gas storage tank components such as sump pumps.

“Comb-on-a-chip” powers new atomic clock design

July 24, 2014 7:52 am | News | Comments

Researchers from NIST and California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have demonstrated a new design for an atomic clock that is based on a chip-scale frequency comb, or a microcomb. The microcomb clock, featured in Optica, is the first demonstration of all-optical control of the microcomb, and its accurate conversion of optical frequencies to lower microwave frequencies.

Instrument enables high-speed chemical imaging of tissues

July 23, 2014 8:06 am | News | Comments

A research team from NIST, working with the Cleveland Clinic, has demonstrated a dramatically improved technique for analyzing biological cells and tissues based on characteristic molecular vibration "signatures." The new NIST technique is an advanced form of the widely used spontaneous Raman spectroscopy, but one that delivers signals that are 10,000 times stronger than obtained from spontaneous Raman scattering.

Ultrasonically propelled nanorods spin dizzyingly fast

July 22, 2014 8:32 am | News | Comments

Vibrate a solution of rod-shaped metal nanoparticles in water with ultrasound and they'll spin around their long axes like tiny drill bits. Why? No one yet knows exactly. But researchers at the NIST have clocked their speed, and it's fast. At up to 150,000 revolutions per minute, these nanomotors rotate 10 times faster than any nanoscale object submerged in liquid ever reported.

Digital crime fighters face technical challenges with cloud computing

July 15, 2014 10:42 am | News | Comments

NIST has issued for public review and comment a draft report summarizing 65 challenges that cloud computing poses to forensics investigators who uncover, gather, examine and interpret digital evidence to help solve crimes. The report was prepared by the NIST Cloud Computing Forensic Science Working Group, an international body of cloud and digital forensic experts from industry, government and academia.

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New NIST metamaterial gives light a one-way ticket

July 2, 2014 11:58 am | News | Comments

The light-warping structures known as metamaterials have a new trick in their ever-expanding repertoire. Researchers at NIST have built a silver, glass and chromium nanostructure that can all but stop visible light cold in one direction while giving it a pass in the other. The device could someday play a role in optical information processing and in novel biosensing devices.

NIST test house exceeds goal; ends year with energy to spare

July 2, 2014 9:34 am | News | Comments

Despite five months of below-average temperatures and twice the normal amount of snowfall, NIST's Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF) in Washington, D.C. ended its one-year test run with 491 KW-h of extra energy. Instead of paying almost $4,400 for electricity, the experimental all-electric house actually earned a credit by exporting surplus energy to the local utility.

New math technique improves atomic property predictions to historic accuracy

June 26, 2014 8:02 am | News | Comments

By combining advanced mathematics with high-performance computing, scientists have developed a tool that allowed them to calculate a fundamental property of most atoms on the periodic table to historic accuracy, reducing error by a factor of a thousand in many cases. The technique also could be used to determine a host of other atomic properties important in fields like nuclear medicine and astrophysics.

Analytic technique offers arson investigators faster, more accurate results

June 18, 2014 9:04 am | by James Burrus, NIST | News | Comments

A research group at NIST has demonstrated a new method for detecting ignitable liquids that could change the way arson fires are investigated. The new process for analyzing debris for traces of fire accelerants is faster and more accurate than conventional methods and produces less waste.

NIST technique could make sub-wavelength images at radio frequencies

June 17, 2014 11:14 am | by Laura Ost, NIST | News | Comments

Imaging and mapping of electric fields at radio frequencies (RF) currently requires the use of metallic structures such as dipoles, probes and reference antennas. To make such measurements efficiently, the size of these structures needs to be on the order of the wavelength of the RF fields to be mapped. This poses practical limitations on the smallest features that can be measured.

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NIST: The clumping density of many things seems to be a standard

June 11, 2014 7:37 am | News | Comments

Particles of soot floating through the air and comets hurtling through space have at least one thing in common: 0.36. That, reports a research group at NIST, is the measure of how dense they will get under normal conditions, and it’s a value that seems to be constant for similar aggregates across an impressively wide size range from nanometers to tens of meters. NIST hopes the results will aid climate researchers.

A battery revolution on the cheap?

June 5, 2014 11:14 am | by Michael Baum, NIST | News | Comments

Whip together an industrial waste product and a bit of plastic and you might have the recipe for the next revolution in battery technology. Scientists have combined common ingredients to make an inexpensive, high-capacity lithium-sulfur battery that can be cycled hundreds of times without losing function.

Rice Univ. produces carbon-capture breakthrough

June 4, 2014 7:14 am | News | Comments

A porous material invented by the Rice Univ. lab of chemist James Tour sequesters carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, at ambient temperature with pressure provided by the wellhead and lets it go once the pressure is released. The material shows promise to replace more costly and energy-intensive processes.

Countdown to net zero

June 3, 2014 9:27 am | by Mark Bello, NIST | News | Comments

Heading into the final stretch of a year-long trial run, the experimental net-zero energy house at NIST in Gaithersburg, Md., must overcome an energy deficit of 154 kWhr—equivalent to about $20—during the month of June. The facility was designed to produce at least as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year.

Rush a light wave and you’ll break its data

May 30, 2014 10:44 am | News | Comments

Scientists at NIST and the Joint Quantum Institute have shown how attempts to "push" part of a light beam past the speed of light results in the loss of the quantum data the light carries. The results could clarify how noise might limit the transfer of information in quantum computers.

Laser system mimics sunlight to test solar cell efficiency

May 28, 2014 10:34 am | News | Comments

Researchers at NIST have developed a laser-based instrument that generates artificial sunlight to help test solar cell properties and find ways to boost their efficiency. The novel NIST system simulates sunlight well across a broad spectrum of visible to infrared light. More flexible than conventional solar simulators, the laser instrument can be focused down to a small beam spot and shaped to match any desired spectral profile.

AFM systems take a tip from nanowires

May 23, 2014 12:32 pm | News | Comments

In response to requests from the semiconductor industry, a team of researchers at the Physical Measurement Laboratory has demonstrated that atomic force microscope probe tips made from its near-perfect gallium nitride nanowires are superior in many respects to standard silicon or platinum tips. They also found a way to use the tips as LEDs to illuminate sample regions while scanning.

Chip produces, detects specialized gas for biomedical analysis

May 23, 2014 8:27 am | News | Comments

A chip-scale device that both produces and detects a specialized gas used in biomedical analysis and medical imaging has been built and demonstrated at NIST. Described in Nature Communications, the new microfluidic chip produces polarized (or magnetized) xenon gas and then detects even the faintest magnetic signals from the gas.

Automated guided vehicles ripe for standardized performance tests

May 22, 2014 10:40 am | News | Comments

Automated guided vehicles—or AGVs—are robotic versions of draft animals, hauling heavy loads and navigating their way in factories, distribution centers, ports and other facilities. These modern beasts of burden are evolving so rapidly in capabilities and electronic intelligence that the need for the equivalent of standardized performance testing has become apriority for the fast-growing AGV industry and its customers.

Capillary device significantly improves manufacture of quality liposomes

May 22, 2014 9:29 am | News | Comments

Widespread application of manufactured liposomes as artificial drug carriers has been hindered by factors such as inconsistency in size, structural instability, and high production costs. Researchers have designed a new liposome production system from bundled capillary tubes. It costs less than a $1 to make, requires no special fabrication technology, and consistently yields large quantities of uniform and sturdy vesicles.

Why quantum dots suffer from “fluorescence intermittency”

May 22, 2014 8:12 am | News | Comments

Researchers have found that a particular species of quantum dots that weren't commonly thought to blink, do. So what? Well, although the blinks are short, even brief fluctuations can result in efficiency losses that could cause trouble for using quantum dots to generate photons that move information around inside a quantum computer or between nodes of a future high-security internet based on quantum telecommunications.

Metal-organic framework shows new talent

May 21, 2014 8:15 am | News | Comments

This gift from science just keeps on giving. Measurements taken at NIST show why a material already known to be good at separating components of natural gas also can do something trickier: help convert one chemical to another, a process called catalysis. The discovery is a rare example of a laboratory-made material easily performing a task that biology usually requires a complex series of steps to accomplish.

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