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Carbon nanotubes promise improved flame-resistant coating

January 15, 2014 9:43 am | News | Comments

Using an approach akin to assembling a club sandwich at the nanoscale, NIST researchers have succeeded in crafting a uniform, multi-walled carbon nanotube-based coating that greatly reduces the flammability of foam commonly used in upholstered furniture and other soft furnishings. The flammability of the nanotube-coated polyurethane foam was reduced 35% compared with untreated foam.

New tests explore safety of nanotubes in plastics over time

December 18, 2013 9:03 am | News | Comments

Modern epoxies are frequently made stronger, lighter and more resilient with the addition of multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs), a special form of carbon that under a microscope looks like rolls of chicken wire. Few analytical methods have been employed, however, to determine the effect this material has on environmental or health safety. NIST has developed a suite of tests for evaluating the performance of these nanocomposite materials.

Team develops “spinning trap” to measure electron roundness

December 6, 2013 9:19 am | News | Comments

Are electrons truly round? More specifically, is the electron’s charge between its poles uniform? A group at JILA has tackled this difficult question and has developed a method of spinning electric and magnetic fields around trapped molecular ions to measure the tiny electrons. They haven’t yet matched other electric dipole moment measurement techniques, but eventually the new method should surpass them.

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Added molecules allow MOFs to conduct electricity

December 5, 2013 3:54 pm | News | Comments

Scientists from NIST and Sandia National Laboratories have added something new to a family of engineered, high-technology materials called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs): the ability to conduct electricity. This breakthrough—conductive MOFs—has the potential to make these already remarkable materials even more useful, particularly for detecting gases and toxic substances.

Characterizing solar cells with nanoscale precision

December 5, 2013 9:23 am | News | Comments

Researchers from the NIST Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST) have demonstrated a new low-energy electron beam technique and used it to probe the nanoscale electronic properties of grain boundaries and grain interiors in cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cells. Their results suggest that controlling material properties near the grain boundaries could provide a path for increasing the efficiency of such solar cells.

NIST announces new center to enable “materials by design”

December 3, 2013 2:30 pm | News | Comments

A consortium led by Northwestern Univ. will establish a new NIST-sponsored center of excellence for advanced materials research. The Center for Hierarchical Materials Design (CHiMaD) will be funded in part by a $25 million award from NIST over five years and will focus on computational tools, databases and experimental techniques to allow “materials by design”, a major goal of the Materials Genome Initiative.

How losing information can benefit quantum computing

November 26, 2013 8:34 am | News | Comments

Suggesting that quantum computers might benefit from losing some data, physicists at NIST have entangled—linked the quantum properties of—two ions by leaking judiciously chosen information to the environment. The NIST experiments used two beryllium ions as quantum bits (qubits) to store quantum information and two partner magnesium ions, which were cooled with three ultraviolet laser beams to release heat.

New spectrometry standard for handheld chemical detectors aids first responders

October 25, 2013 11:18 am | News | Comments

When it comes to detectors for dangerous chemicals, toxins or nefarious germs, smaller and faster is better. But size and speed must still allow for accuracy, especially when measurements by different instruments must give the same result. The recent publication of a new NIST standard provides confidence that results from handheld chemical detectors can be compared, apples-to-apples.

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NIST measures laser power with portable scale

October 24, 2013 12:41 pm | News | Comments

Researchers have demonstrated a new method for measuring laser power by reflecting the light off a mirrored scale, which behaves as a force detector. Although it may sound odd, the technique is promising as a simpler, faster, less costly and more portable alternative to conventional methods of calibrating high-power lasers used in manufacturing, the military and research.

Team “gets the edge” on photon transport in silicon

October 24, 2013 8:06 am | News | Comments

Scientists have a new way to edge around a difficult problem in quantum physics, now that a research team from NIST and the Joint Quantum Institute have proved their recent theory about how particles of light flow within a novel device they built. While the problem itself may be unfamiliar to many, the team's solution could help computer designers use light instead of electricity to carry information in computer circuits.

Vacuums provide solid ground for new definition of kilogram

October 23, 2013 2:31 pm | News | Comments

Of all the standard units currently in use around the world, the kilogram is the only one that still relies on a physical object for its definition. But revising this outdated definition will require precise vacuum-based measurements that researchers are not yet able to make. A new system is in development that would allow a direct comparison of an object being weighed in a vacuum to one outside a vacuum.

Carbon nanotube chips go ballooning for climate science

October 23, 2013 10:07 am | News | Comments

A huge plastic balloon floated high in the skies over New Mexico on Sept. 29, 2013, carrying instruments to collect climate-related test data with the help of carbon nanotube chips made by NIST. The onboard instrument was an experimental spectrometer designed to collect and measure visible and infrared wavelengths of light ranging from 350 to 2,300 nm.

NIST measures laser power with portable scale

October 23, 2013 8:58 am | News | Comments

Researchers at NIST have demonstrated a novel method for measuring laser power by reflecting the light off a mirrored scale, which behaves as a force detector. Although it may sound odd, the technique is promising as a simpler, faster, less costly and more portable alternative to conventional methods of calibrating high-power lasers used in manufacturing, the military and research.

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New ion source for focused ion beams uses cold atomic beam

October 21, 2013 8:49 am | News | Comments

Researchers from the NIST and zeroK Nanotech Corp. have demonstrated a new ion source that may enable focused ion beams with high brightness and resolution for nanoscale fabrication and measurement applications in fields ranging from semiconductor manufacturing to biotechnology. Working under a CRADA, the researchers have constructed the first prototype of a low-temperature ion source.

A new generation of odor-releasing materials for training dogs

September 20, 2013 8:03 am | News | Comments

Traditionally, the training of bomb-sniffing dogs has been a hazardous job, but newly developed odor-releasing materials could take the risk out of that work. Scientists at NIST are seeking to patent a novel system that can capture scents and release them over time.

Physicists create “crystal” of spin-swapping ultracold gas

September 19, 2013 7:50 am | News | Comments

Physicists at JILA have created a crystal-like arrangement of ultracold gas molecules that can swap quantum "spin" properties with nearby and distant partners. The novel structure might be used to simulate or even invent new materials that derive exotic properties from quantum spin behavior, for electronics or other practical applications.

Microfluidics technique recovers DNA for identification

September 18, 2013 2:13 pm | News | Comments

A team of researchers at NIST and Applied Research Associates, Inc. has demonstrated an improved microfluidic technique for recovering DNA from real-world, complex mixtures such as dirt. According to the researchers their technique delivers DNA from these crude samples with much less effort and in less time than conventional techniques and yields DNA concentrations optimal for human identification procedures.

NIST, five journals find way to manage data errors in research

September 10, 2013 9:09 am | News | Comments

Poor research data can lead to mistakes in equipment selection, over-design of industrial plant components, difficulty simulating and discovering new processes, and poor regulatory decisions. However, traditional peer review is not enough to ensure data quality amid the recent boom in scientific research findings, according to results of a 10-year collaboration between NIST and five technical journals.

NIST announces funding opportunity to support Alaska’s manufacturers

September 6, 2013 2:16 pm | News | Comments

Through its Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), NIST intends to fund a six-month project in support of Alaska's efforts to diversify its manufacturing base. U.S.-based nonprofit institutions or organizations, including state and local governments, are eligible to apply for the $150,000 award.

Limestone powder enhances performance of “green” concrete

September 4, 2013 9:02 am | News | Comments

Adding limestone powder to "green" concrete mixtures can significantly improve performance, report researchers from NIST and the Federal Highway Administration. The promising laboratory results suggest a path to greatly increasing the use of fly ash in concrete, leading to sizable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, construction costs and landfill volumes.

Grayscale technique opens third dimension for nanoscale lithography

August 29, 2013 3:32 pm | News | Comments

Engineers at NIST have developed a new technique for fabricating high aspect ratio 3-D nanostructures over large device areas using a combination of electron beam lithography, photolithography and resist spray coating. While it has long been possible to make complicated 3-D structures with many mask layers or expensive grayscale masks, the new technique enables researchers to etch features in two process steps without masks

Hybrid Approach to Metrology

August 28, 2013 4:38 pm | Award Winners

At NIST, scientists have developed the first technology to effectively combine the best aspects of two or more different measurement techniques into a monolithic result, reducing measurement uncertainty through the application of model-based metrology.

Ytterbium atomic clocks set record for stability

August 23, 2013 9:30 am | News | Comments

A pair of experimental atomic clocks based on ytterbium atoms at NIST has set a new record for stability. The clocks act like 21st-century pendulums or metronomes that could swing back and forth with perfect timing for a period comparable to the age of the universe. NIST physicists report that the ytterbium clocks' tick is more stable than any other atomic clock.

NIST makes new recommendations for system patches, malware avoidance

August 22, 2013 8:43 am | News | Comments

Vulnerabilities in software and firmware are the easiest ways to attack a system, and two revised publications from NIST approach the problem by providing new guidance for software patching and warding off malware. The new computer security guides to help computer system managers protect their systems.

Researchers discover atomic clock can simulate quantum magnetism

August 9, 2013 9:31 am | News | Comments

Researchers at JILA have, for the first time, used an atomic clock as a quantum simulator, mimicking the behavior of a different, more complex quantum system. Atomic clocks now join a growing list of physical systems that can be used for modeling and perhaps eventually explaining the quantum mechanical behavior of exotic materials such as high-temperature superconductors, which conduct electricity without resistance.

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