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Scientists find more precise way to measure neutron lifetime

February 5, 2014 12:32 pm | News | Comments

A team NIST scientists, with collaborators elsewhere, has achieved a five-fold reduction in the dominant uncertainty in an experiment that measured the mean lifetime of the free neutron, resulting in a substantial improvement of previous results. However, the accomplishment reveals a puzzling discrepancy when compared to different method, and researchers are planning to re-run the experiment in upgraded form.

Cell membrane studied as future diagnostic tool

January 31, 2014 9:27 am | News | Comments

Researchers at NIST and in Lithuania have used a NIST-developed laboratory model of a simplified cell membrane to accurately detect and measure a protein associated with a serious gynecological disease, bacterial vaginosis (BV), at extraordinarily low concentrations. The work illustrates how the artificial membrane could be used to improve disease diagnosis.

Nearly everyone uses piezoelectrics, but do we know how they work?

January 31, 2014 8:00 am | News | Comments

Though piezoelectrics are a widely used technology, there are major gaps in our understanding of how they work. Researchers at NIST and in Canada believe they've learned why one of the main classes of these materials, known as relaxors, behaves in distinctly different ways from the rest and exhibit the largest piezoelectric effect. And the discovery comes in the shape of a butterfly.

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Strontium atomic clock sets new records in precision and stability

January 27, 2014 7:41 am | News | Comments

Heralding a new age of terrific timekeeping, a research group led by a NIST physicist has unveiled an experimental strontium atomic clock that has set new world records for both precision and stability—key metrics for the performance of a clock. The JILA strontium lattice clock is about 50% more precise than the record holder of the past few years, NIST’s quantum logic clock.

Quantum physics could make secure, single-use computer memories possible

January 15, 2014 3:49 pm | News | Comments

Computer scientist Yi-Kai Liu at NIST has devised a way to make a security device that has proved notoriously difficult to build: a "one-shot" memory unit, whose contents can be read only a single time. The innovation, which uses qubits and conjugate coding, shows in theory how the laws of quantum physics could allow for the construction of such memory devices.

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.

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.

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