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At the nanoscale, graphite can turn friction upside down

October 17, 2012 12:21 pm | News | Comments

If you ease up on a pencil, does it slide more easily? Sure. But maybe not if the tip is sharpened down to nanoscale dimensions. A team of researchers at NIST has found that if graphite is sticky enough, as measured by a nanoscale probe, it actually becomes harder to slide a tip across the material's surface as you decrease pressure—the exact opposite of our everyday experience.  

New method measures movements of tiny devices at every step

October 17, 2012 7:35 am | News | Comments

Makers of minuscule moving machines, do you know where your micro- and nanorobots really are? Care to bet? A team of researchers at NIST likely would prevail in such a hypothetical wager. On the basis of its findings in a study of the motions of an experimental microelectromechanical system, the team might even offer better-then-even odds.

Improving performance of a solar fuel catalyst

October 4, 2012 5:17 am | News | Comments

Hydrogen gas that is created using solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen has the potential to be a cost-effective fuel source if the efficiency of the catalysts used in the water-splitting process can be improved. By controlling the placement of key additives in an iron oxide catalyst, researchers from NIST have found that the final location of the dopants and the temperature at which they are incorporated into the catalyst crystal lattice determine overall catalytic performance in splitting water.

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Engineers collaborate on inexpensive DNA sequencing method

October 4, 2012 4:33 am | News | Comments

Rapid, accurate genetic sequencing soon may be within reach of every doctor's office if recent research from the NIST and Columbia University can be commercialized effectively. The team has demonstrated a potentially low-cost, reliable way to obtain the complete DNA sequences of any individual using a sort of molecular ticker-tape reader, potentially enabling easy detection of disease markers in a patient's DNA.

Near-field scanning microwave microscope: Big at the nanoscale

October 1, 2012 5:52 am | News | Comments

The ability to determine the composition and physics of nanoscale materials and devices at NIST is about to improve dramatically with the arrival of a new near-field scanning microwave microscope (NSMM) design. Researchers there, using existing commercial and homemade NSMMs, have pioneered many applications, notably including determination of semiconductor dopant distribution in 2D and 3D. Now they hope to look at mechanical and magnetic resonance on the nanoscale.

Fast, sensitive nanophotonic motion sensor developed for silicon microdevices

September 20, 2012 3:58 am | News | Comments

Using a microscopic optical sensor that can be batch-fabricated on a silicon chip at low cost, researchers from NIST have measured the mechanical motion between two nanofabricated structures with a precision close to the fundamental limit imposed by quantum mechanics.

Computer model identifies candidate refrigerants to combat global warming

September 19, 2012 5:26 am | News | Comments

Researchers at NIST have developed a new computational method for identifying candidate refrigerant fluids with low global warming potential—the tendency to trap heat in the atmosphere for many decades—as well as other desirable performance and safety features. The NIST effort is the most extensive systematic search for a new class of refrigerants that meet the latest concerns about climate change.

Researchers introduce method for imaging defects in magnetic nanodevices

September 14, 2012 5:24 am | News | Comments

An international team of researchers have demonstrated a microscopy method to identify magnetic defects in an array of magnetic nanostructures. The method represents an important step towards identifying, measuring, and correcting the magnetic properties of defective devices in future information storage technologies.

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Computerized house to generate as much energy as it uses

September 13, 2012 4:11 am | News | Comments

NIST unveiled a new laboratory designed to demonstrate that a typical-looking suburban home for a family of four can generate as much energy as it uses in a year. Following an initial year-long experiment, the facility will be used to improve test methods for energy-efficient technologies and develop cost-effective design standards for energy-efficient homes that could reduce overall energy consumption and harmful pollution, and save families money on their monthly utility bills.

The world's most stable laser

September 11, 2012 4:48 am | News | Comments

The world's most stable laser—with frequency variation of no more than 2 parts in 10,000 trillion—has been developed and tested by an international collaboration of scientists at NIST/JILA in Boulder, Colo., and a group at Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, the German counterpart of NIST. The work represents a new approach for constructing high-quality cavities that will bring more than an order of magnitude improvement over prior designs.

Low-noise, chip-based optical wavelength converter demonstrated

September 6, 2012 5:52 am | News | Comments

Researchers from the NIST Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology have demonstrated a low-noise device for changing the wavelength of light using nanofabricated waveguides created on a silicon-based platform using standard planar fabrication technology.

'Hybrid metrology' method could improve computer chips

September 5, 2012 12:40 pm | News | Comments

A refined method developed at NIST for measuring nanometer-sized objects may help computer manufacturers more effectively size up the myriad tiny switches packed onto chips' surfaces. The method, which makes use of multiple measuring instruments and statistical techniques, is already drawing attention from industry.

Simulating the sun for photovoltaic research

September 4, 2012 6:10 am | News | Comments

Researchers at NIST's Physical Measurement Laboratory have devised a novel source of portable sunlight that may fill an urgent need in renewable energy research—namely, light sources that generate a near-perfect solar spectrum to be used in testing the performance and efficiency of photovoltaic materials.

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Tracking fluorescent nanoparticles using laser

August 30, 2012 8:57 am | News | Comments

NIST Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology researchers have determined the optimum path in which to scan a laser beam in order to track a fluorescing nanoparticle as the particle moves inside a fluid or gas in two or three dimensions.

Speedy ions could add zip to quantum computers

August 9, 2012 6:52 am | News | Comments

Take that, sports cars! Physicists at NIST can accelerate their beryllium ions from zero to 100 mph and stop them in just a few microseconds. What's more, the ions come to a complete stop and hardly feel the effects of the ride. And they're not just good for submicroscopic racing—NIST physicists think their zippy ions may be useful in future quantum computers.

New ballistic standard helps tie guns to criminals

August 9, 2012 5:30 am | News | Comments

Cartridge cases—the empty shells left behind after a gun is fired—are routinely sent to forensic laboratories for analysis when they're found at a shooting scene. Forensics experts need to have confidence in the accuracy of the equipment and procedures used to make a link, which makes the new standard reference material from NIST a valuable tool for law enforcement.

Noiseless optical amplifier gives glimpse of light

August 9, 2012 4:46 am | News | Comments

Most devices that amplify light suffer from the same problem: making the image brighter also adds muddying distortion. Scientists working at NIST have demonstrated that they can amplify weak light signals without adding noise while also carrying more information—more pixels—than other low-noise amplifiers.

New device could improve fiber-optic quantum data transmission

August 8, 2012 7:06 am | News | Comments

Tests performed at NIST show that a new method for splitting photon beams could overcome a fundamental physical hurdle in transmitting electronic data. The findings confirm that a prototype device developed with collaborators at Stanford University can double the amount of quantum information that can be sent readily through fiber-optic cables, and in theory could lead to an even greater increase in the rate of this type of transmission.

Researchers track nanoparticle dynamics in three dimensions

August 2, 2012 10:12 am | News | Comments

A detailed understanding of how colloidal nanoparticles interact with interfaces is essential for designing them for specific applications in fields ranging from drug delivery to oil exploration and recovery. NIST scientists have recently used 3D single-particle tracking to measure the dynamic behavior of individual nanoparticles adsorbed at the surface of micrometer-scale oil droplets in water, and have discovered how they diffuse.

Measurement advance could speed innovation in solar devices

July 25, 2012 8:44 am | News | Comments

A new versatile measurement system devised by researchers at NIST accurately and quickly measures the electric power output of solar energy devices, capabilities useful to researchers and manufacturers working to develop and make next-generation solar energy cells.

Neutron scattering advance

July 16, 2012 6:03 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers from the University of Delaware and two national laboratories have developed a new scientific instrument capable of studying the microstructure of complex fluids, polymers, nanomaterials, and surfactant solutions using neutron scattering techniques. The advance adds the ability for researchers to study time-dependent deformations, a capability not previously available.

Key to better measurement of picoscale forces

June 28, 2012 9:21 am | News | Comments

Gold is not necessarily precious—at least not as a coating on atomic force microscope (AFM) probes. JILA researchers found that removing an AFM probe's gold coating—until now considered helpful—greatly improved force measurements performed in a liquid, the medium favored for biophysical studies such as stretching DNA or unfolding proteins.

First single photon source made from silicon

June 27, 2012 10:22 am | News | Comments

In an important step towards more practical quantum information processing, researchers have demonstrated the first heralded single photon source made from silicon. This source complements two other recently developed silicon-based technologies—interferometers for manipulating the entanglement of photons and single photon detectors—needed to build a quantum optical circuit or a secure quantum communication system.

Novel coating may point way to next-generation green flame retardants

June 27, 2012 6:01 am | News | Comments

In searching for better flame retardants for home furnishings, NIST researchers defied the conventional wisdom and literally hit a wall, one made of clay. It wasn't a dead end, but rather a surprising result that may lead to a new generation of nonhalogenated, sustainable flame retardant technology for polyurethane foam.

Graphene drumheads tuned to make quantum dots

June 21, 2012 10:41 am | News | Comments

Tightening or relaxing the tension on a drumhead will change the way the drum sounds. The same goes for drumheads made from graphene, only instead of changing the sound, stretching graphene has a profound effect on the material's electrical properties. Researchers working at NIST and the University of Maryland have shown that subjecting graphene to mechanical strain can mimic the effects of magnetic fields and create a quantum dot.

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