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Blog Category: National Institute of Standards and Technology

NIST: In Unique Fire Tests, Outdoor Decks Will Be Under Firebrand Attack

Image of fiery NIST "dragon" (© DVARG/Shutterstock)

Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will unleash its Dragon—a NIST invention that bellows showers of glowing embers, or firebrands—at a unique wind tunnel test facility in Japan, where researchers will evaluate the vulnerability of outdoor deck assemblies and materials to ignition during wildfires, a growing peril that accounts for half of the nation’s 10 most costly fires.

In a new report, NIST researchers summarize suggestions for test designs and objectives offered by experts at a recent workshop convened in Los Angeles, Calif., with support from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and input from the Office of the California State Fire Marshal. This input is now being formalized into plans for experiments that will be conducted in early 2012 at Japan’s Building Research Institute (BRI) in Tsukuba.

There, NIST and Japanese researchers have merged two technologies, NIST’s Firebrand Generator (the “Dragon”) and BRI’s Fire Research Wind Tunnel Facility, which is devoted to studies of how wind influences fire. The combination gives them the singular capability to replicate a firebrand attack and expose structures to wind-driven showers of embers under experimentally controlled conditions.  NIST TechBeat story  |  Video clip of the "NIST Dragon"

Accurate Measures: Foundation for a Strong Economy

NIST logo [outdated]

Every day we consciously buy products whose performance depends on one or more measured quantities — the wattage and lumens of light bulbs, that 12-ounce cup of coffee, the fill up at the gas station. Many of us take for granted that we are getting our money’s worth, and in large part we are, because the accuracy of these measurements traces back to calibrations and standards from the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). 

But measurement and other precise specifications also play a much broader, largely invisible economic role. All the sophisticated technologies we depend on daily require equally sophisticated measurement capabilities to ensure performance, quality, and safety. The diameters of optical fibers as thin human hair must match up perfectly to carry telecommunications data and video over thousands of miles. CAT scan machines must deliver the minimum X-ray dose for clear images while protecting patients from unnecessary radiation. The frequencies of cell phone systems must be finely tuned so that you receive clear reception of your calls, and only your calls, without crosstalk from stray signals.

Moreover, virtually every product or service one buys today is a complex technology system (computers, automobiles, even clothes washers). The components of these “systems” can only work together if the physical and functional dimensions of the interfaces between them are precisely specified.

NIST provides the precision measurement and interoperability tools industry needs now while pushing the boundaries of the underlying science to create the enabling infrastructure for the technologies of tomorrow.

Maryland Governor O'Malley Urges Investment in Cybersecurity Education

Gov. Martin O'Malley on podium

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley addressed several hundred educators,  IT experts, and others at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) yesterday as part of a workshop hosted by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), a national campaign coordinated by NIST.

Calling cybersecurity an "urgent priority," O'Malley emphasized the need for government and the private sector to work together to "invest in the skills of our people" and create new jobs in the cyber field. In part, he said job creation will depend on “how quickly we move good ideas from labs to the commercial sector.”

O’Malley described a state-wide cybersecurity initiative begun three years ago that includes partnerships with Maryland-based federal labs such as NIST and the National Security Agency, enhanced technology transfer efforts, and expansion of the cybersecurity career pipeline. He also discussed several programs that the state of Maryland has implemented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), education at the college level and in career and technical education at the high school level to improve education in cybersecurity.

He noted that "a modern economy requires modern investment," and "the single most important investment is the investment in public education."

Commerce’s NIST Announces U.S. and EU to Partner on Next Generation Electrical Grids

Image of grid interactive PV system installed on a utility pole (Photo: Energy.Sandia.gov)

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the European Union’s (EU) Smart Grid–Coordination Group jointly announced today their intention to work together on Smart Grid standards development to ensure a consistent set of international standards that can efficiently deliver reliable, economical and sustainable electricity services on both sides of the Atlantic.

The new collaboration is meant to ensure that Smart Grid standards on both continents have as much in common as possible, so that devices and systems that interact with these grids can be designed in similar fashion. Smart Grids are expected to ease the incorporation of renewable energy sources, energy saving devices and electric vehicles into the power system. Overall goals include the reduction of carbon emissions and security of supply.  Announcement

The White House's National Science and Technology Council Recognizes NIST and USPTO for Open Innovation Efforts

The White House's National Science and Technology Council Recognized Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for their open innovation efforts [PDF]. NIST's efforts to encourage market transparency and USPTO's leadership in public/private data access have the potential to scale within and across Federal agencies through interagency policy and implementation groups. By leading in this open government initiative, NIST and USPTO set the stage for entrepreneurs to out-innovate our international competitors and win the future.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was recognized for its efforts in democratizing government data, supporting President Obama's initiatives to usher in a new era in which the gap between the American people and their government would close. USPTO initially faced some problems in its effort to publish its data online in a free and open format. The Office had traditionally been providing data through a paid subscription service. It also didn't have funding for technology to publish information online in an open format that could easily be retrieved, downloaded, indexed and searched by commonly used web search applications.

The USPTO opted to partner with Google in a no-cost agreement in which Google agreed to disseminate USPTO's bulk electronic patent and trademark data to the public at no charge. The electronic data includes images and text of patent grants and published applications, trademark applications, patent classification information and patent and trademark assignments.

In the end, nearly two terabytes of data, representing patent and trademark data back to 1790, is now available to the public free of charge on Google, with some 13GB of new data added weekly.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology also received recognition for its efforts in encouraging market transparency with its ongoing coordination of standards for the Smart Grid, the next-generation U.S power grid currently under development. After being called upon by Congress in 2007 to take responsibility for this task, NIST, in collaboration with the Department of Energy, faced the challenge of ensuring the myriad products and services that could connect to the Smart Grid would be able to operate together seamlessly.

High Tech in Rural America

Worker from PRO-TEC inspecting coated steel (Photo: PRO-TEC)

Guest blog post by Patrick D. Gallagher, Commerce's Undersecretary of Standards and Technology and Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

That’s right. Rural America is also high tech. From the plains of the heartland to the cattle lands of the West and the rolling hills of farmlands in the East, our smaller communities are home to high-tech businesses that help expand U.S. exports and provide high-skilled, high-paying jobs.

Today, I was honored to take a tour of one such company, PRO-TEC Coating Co. in Leipsic, Ohio, population 2,093. The company employs about 250 people in a state-of-the-art facility surrounded by corn and soybean fields in the northwest corner of the state.  A joint venture between U.S. Steel Corporation and Kobe Steel Ltd. of Japan, PRO-TEC manufactures ultra high-strength coated steel, primarily for the auto industry.  The company is currently constructing an advanced $400 million continuous annealing processing line with an annual capacity of 500,000 tons that will expand its current capacity by 50 percent and create new manufacturing jobs.

Commerce's NIST Tests Help Ensure Reliable Wireless Alarm Beacons for First Responders

NIST engineer Kate Remley holds two Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) devices with wireless alarm capability. Photo copyright: Paul Trantow/Altitude Arts

Wireless emergency safety equipment could save lives—if signals are transmitted reliably. But few performance standards exist. Now, tests at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are helping to ensure that alarm beacons for firefighters and other emergency responders will operate reliably in the presence of other wireless devices.

NIST is providing technical support for industry consensus standards by developing test methods to evaluate how well these devices work under realistic conditions. The latest NIST study focused on interference between Personal Alert Safety Systems (PASS) with wireless alarm capability, and radio-frequency identification (RFID) systems. The methods developed in the study can test interference in other wireless devices such as radios, hands-free cell phone headsets, local area networks, and urban search and rescue robots.  |  Read the full NIST "Tech Beat" story

Spotlight on Commerce: Phillip Singerman, Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services at the National Institute of Standards and Technology

Portrait of Singerman

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Phillip Singerman is the Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services at the National Institute of Standards and Technology

In January I was honored to be selected by Pat Gallagher, Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to serve as Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services, with responsibility for NIST’s suite of nationally recognized industry-partnership programs, the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the Technology Innovation Program, the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, technology transfer and SBIR grants.  These programs are central to NIST’s mission and to the president’s innovation strategy of using science and technology to drive economic development, and are staffed by professionals of skill, dedication and integrity.

My professional career has focused on economic development at the local, state and regional levels in public, non-profit and private organizations.  In my current role, I continue to have the opportunity to work with the regional public-private partnerships, young entrepreneurial firms and universities which populate the innovation ecosystem.   

This is my second turn at Commerce.  During the latter half of the 1990s I served as Assistant Secretary for Economic Development; what has struck me upon my return to the Department is the higher level of coordination among bureaus, particularly NIST with EDA, USPTO, and ITA, and the leadership exercised by the National Economic Council and Office of Science and Technology Policy to encourage inter-departmental collaboration.

Commerce Announces Appointment of First-Ever Chief Manufacturing Officer

Portrait of Molnar

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today announced the appointment of the agency’s first-ever Chief Manufacturing Officer. The manufacturing sector is critical to the U.S. economy, and the Obama administration is committed to building domestic manufacturing capabilities to create the new products, new industries and new jobs of the future. The new position will leverage NIST’s strong relationships with industry to accelerate innovation that will create 21st-century manufacturing jobs and enhance our global competitiveness.

As Chief Manufacturing Officer, manufacturing industry executive Michael F. Molnar will be responsible for planning and coordination of the Institute’s broad array of manufacturing research and services programs and will support the broader Advanced Manufacturing Partnership recently launched by President Obama that brings industry, universities and the federal government together to invest in emerging technologies. NIST is particularly well-positioned to support this goal because of its unique mission to work closely with industry.

Molnar has extensive industrial experience, with past leadership roles in manufacturing technology, advanced manufacturing engineering, metrology and quality systems. He will serve as the central point of contact with the White House, the Department of Commerce and other agencies on technical and policy issues related to manufacturing.

Manufacturing: The Resurgence of American Innovation and Jobs

Tektite founder, Scott Mele, receiving the Export Achievement Award from the Department of Commerce. Scott Mele on left, Congressman Rush Holt on right.

Guest blog post from Miles Bodnar, Marketing Manager at Tektite Industries

Cross-posted on the NIST MEP blog

There’s something really great that’s going on in America right now: people are talking about manufacturing again. If you ask individuals from the baby boomer generation, they’ll tell you that manufacturing was a cornerstone of the economy when they were growing up. Everyone’s job was associated with manufacturing in one way or another and we were proud of our products Made in the USA. Manufacturing was a part of patriotism.

Since the baby boomer generation has grown up, the world has certainly changed. What hasn’t changed though is that manufacturing is still a pillar of our economy. America is still the number one manufacturing country in the world; we out-produce number-two China by more than 40 percent. Despite our economic challenges in 2009, America created an estimated $1.7 trillion worth of goods according to the United Nations. Manufacturing will always serve as the foundation of our economy for two main reasons: manufacturing challenges us to become more innovative and manufacturing growth creates jobs.

The timeline of our company, Tektite Industries, is the perfect example of this. Like many start ups, company founder Scott Mele founded Tektite in his garage in 1990, developing and distributing the most advanced and quality flashlight in the world. A year later, the organization was manufacturing a Chemical Lightstick Alternative® and Mark-Lite®, which was designed to reduce solid waste produced by chemical sticks there by creating a more “green” alternative.  Over the past 20 years, our company has developed into a vertically integrated LED lighting manufacturer that produces specialty lighting products, incorporating leading edge technology. From specialty flashlights, strobes, to signaling lights, we mold our parts, assemble our electronics, CNC machine, and stamp our metal parts all in New Jersey.

We here at Tektite Industries have only been able to evolve throughout the decades because of innovation. Manufacturing never stops–it just changes. Innovation is all about identifying ways to differentiate ourselves and implementing new ideas to serve new markets. While foreign products may be cheaper in price, we out perform all foreign competitors and produce the best quality available. We use technology and innovative ideas to train our workforce, becoming more efficient and productive while creating new jobs. This creates a ripple effect throughout our economy. It is estimated that for every new manufacturing job created, four to seven additional jobs are created for the economy.