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New Atomic Clock, NIST-F2, Three Times More Accurate

NIST physicists Steve Jefferts (foreground) and Tom Heavner with the NIST-F2 “cesium fountain” atomic clock, a new civilian time standard for the United States.

The U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has officially launched a new atomic clock, called NIST-F2, to serve as a new U.S. civilian time and frequency standard, along with the current NIST-F1 standard.

NIST-F2 would neither gain nor lose one second in about 300 million years, making it about three times as accurate as NIST-F1, which has served as the standard since 1999. Both clocks use a "fountain" of cesium atoms to determine the exact length of a second.

NIST scientists recently reported the first official performance data for NIST-F2, which has been under development for a decade, to the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), located near Paris, France. That agency collates data from atomic clocks around the world to produce Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the international standard of time. According to BIPM data, NIST-F2 is now the world's most accurate time standard.

For now, NIST plans to simultaneously operate both NIST-F1 and NIST-F2. Long-term comparisons of the two clocks will help NIST scientists continue to improve both clocks as they serve as U.S. standards for civilian time. The U.S. Naval Observatory maintains military time standards.

Both NIST-F1 and NIST-F2 measure the frequency of a particular transition in the cesium atom—which is 9,192,631,770 vibrations per second, and is used to define the second, the international (SI) unit of time. The key operational difference is that F1 operates near room temperature (about 27 ºC or 80 ºF) whereas the atoms in F2 are shielded within a much colder environment (at minus 193 ºC, or minus 316 ºF). This cooling dramatically lowers the background radiation and thus reduces some of the very small measurement errors that must be corrected in NIST-F1.

Watch Steve Jefferts, NIST physicist, explain how the NIST-F2 atomic clock works.

Life Lessons in Public Service

Maria Cardona and Secretary Ron Brown

Guest blog post Maria Cardona, Principal at the Dewey Square Group and a Political Commentator on CNN and CNN Español. She serves on the boards of several non-profit groups and has named several times as one of the top 100 Hispanic leaders in the country by Hispanic Business.

ED NOTE: Maria Cardona was the Deputy Press Secretary for Secretary Ron Brown and served at the Department of Commerce for six years during the Clinton Administration

Most everything I learned about public service, I learned from Secretary Ron Brown. He was the best kind of mentor, short on personal advice, long on teaching by example. The first time he walked into the Department of Commerce, he told his staff he wanted to meet the cafeteria workers and the janitorial staff. When he was taken to the cafeteria, the workers almost fainted. They had never seen the Secretary – any Secretary - walk into the cafeteria before. Some even cried. This exemplifies my biggest lessons from my time with Ron: to always meet people where they are, make it personal, and never think, no matter what title you have, you are better than anyone else in the room.

Ron had the ability to make you feel important no matter who you were. He was just as comfortable speaking with Saudi kings as he was shooting the breeze with homeless teenagers in the favelas in Brazil. His message was always the same no matter who he talked to: The United States business community was there to help bring more economic opportunity to their citizens, while expanding market opportunities for US businesses.

The Secretary would always say he was a big fan of “doing well by doing good.”  He was visionary about where the next opportunities for US economic expansion would come from, and he was unapologetic about making the deals that would help American enterprises sell more goods abroad, creating jobs and opportunities on both ends. But he never forgot about the people behind the progress. He would always want to meet the local business leaders, the workers, the families that were starting to prosper because of these expanded opportunities. Ron was always treated like royalty wherever he went in the world, but he never played the part.

US Patent and Trademark Office Now Accepting Applications for 2014 Patents for Humanity Program

Patents for Humanity

The U.S. Commerce Department’s United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) today announced that Patents for Humanity is being renewed as an annual program. Started as a one-year pilot in 2012, the program recognizes businesses, inventors, non-profits, and universities who leverage their intellectual property portfolio to tackle global humanitarian challenges.

2013 Patents for Humanity pilot award winners pioneered innovative business models in frontier markets to deliver much-needed HIV medicine, create more nutritious food products for the poor, and deliver solar energy to off-grid villages, among others. Building on the success of the pilot, USPTO will institute an annual competition to reward entrepreneurs and innovators who deploy patented technologies to address global challenges in five categories that reflect the President's development agenda: medicine, nutrition, sanitation, household energy, and living standards.

The USPTO expects to select about 10 winners this year who will receive public recognition and an acceleration certificate to expedite select proceedings at the USPTO. Honorable mentions will also be awarded with a more limited certificate to accelerate a patent application of the recipient's choosing. USPTO launched Patents for Humanity in February 2012 as part of an Obama administration initiative encouraging game-changing innovations to solve long-standing development challenges. In January 2013, Patents for Humanity received an award for Best National IP and Technology Transfer Policy of 2012 from Licensing Executives Society International (LESI), a leading non-profit that supports IP professionals.

For details on how to apply for a 2014 award, view the Federal Register notice or learn more about the Patents for Humanity program.

Commerce Participates in Business Sunday

Commerce Participates in Business Sunday

This weekend, the Commerce Department’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships joined forces with the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), BusinessUSA, the Small Business Administration (SBA) and 19th Street Baptist Church to host the first Business Sunday in Washington, DC. Business Sunday is a program focused on promoting local economic growth and job creation by connecting congregations and communities with the valuable business development resources offered by the Federal Government.

Close to 300 business owners, entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders came together for the first Business Sunday, packing the fellowship hall at 19th Street Baptist Church. The event included greetings from Melissa Rogers, Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, as well as presentations from SBA, MBDA and BusinessUSA on how to access important technical assistance, business counseling, loans and other practical resources. Participants also had the opportunity to sign up for health insurance for their business or themselves through the DC Health Benefit Exchange. Following the event attendees stayed for more than an hour to network and speak individually with Commerce and SBA staff.

Business Sunday is a reflection of President Obama’s and Secretary Pritkzer’s shared commitment to strengthening our economy by empowering our people – our business owners, entrepreneurs, community development organizations, faith-based groups and others – to effect positive change at the local level. We look forward to continued collaboration with our partners to keep this work moving forward.

Spotlight on Commerce: Kate McAdams, Senior Advisor, Department of Commerce

Kate McAdams, Senior Adviser to the Secretary

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Kate McAdams, Senior Adviser to the Secretary, Department of Commerce

In addition to my role on the Secretary's senior management team, I lead the Department's effort to ensure a skilled workforce, one of the pillars of our Open for Business Agenda. For the first time, the Department of Commerce is focusing on the critical importance of a globally competitive workforce as part of the Department's mission to help set the conditions for economic growth and opportunity. In addition to developing strategic partnerships with the Departments of Labor and Education, we are building on the Department's existing assets, including access to business leaders; data tools; economic development planning expertise; and Manufacturing Extension Partnership centers that serve the needs of small and medium manufacturers. To date, I have been spending time developing partnerships and our internal "skills team" that focuses on expanding job-driven training that ensures employers find the skilled workers they need and workers access quality jobs and career paths.

Recognizing that more can be accomplished through a team effort is inherent in my approach to solving problems and achieving outcomes due to a lifelong passion for playing competitive sports. Growing up playing ice hockey on a team of all boys, to playing women's ice hockey in college, to even "old man's hockey" as an adult, I am hard-wired to think about how to accomplish goals by utilizing my strengths in combination with those of my teammates. This is the case in my new position at Commerce and past positions in city government, and even when I was the sole employee of an organization I found a way to be more impactful through strategic partnerships. Particularly in public service positions, the fast pace and limited resources require creativity when building and utilizing teams.  I am lucky to have worked for two respected mayors and now I view it as a true honor to work for Secretary Pritzker and President Obama.  

I often say I am lucky for the professional opportunities I’ve experienced, but was recently chided for saying so, as if it was out of my control. What I actually mean is better described by the quote “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” I believe that hard work is noticed and is the best preparation for the next opportunity, and as I learned from coaches at a very young age, "keep your head on a swivel" to attempt to prepare for the unexpected. This is my advice for young people starting a career – seek out leaders you want to work for and projects to which you want exposure. Keeping your head on a swivel was my hockey coach’s term to be looking forward, backwards, left and right – to be cognizant of your strengths, weaknesses and the position of your teammates who will help you achieve your goals.

NIST Gives Astronomers a Better Ruler in the Search for Extrasolar Planets

A thorium emission lamp’s violet glow, when viewed through a spectroscope, is split into a spectrum of thousands of bright lines. New measurements of these lines could help astronomers search for earthlike planets around distant stars.

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have rejuvenated a technique for finding planets near distant stars. New measurements of light from special lamps could help astronomers find planets hidden in data from more than a decade's worth of extrasolar planet searches, as well as improve telescopes' current capabilities.

Finding extrasolar planets is tricky. Seen through a telescope, planets in the "habitable zone"—a region close to a star, where liquid water could exist on a planet's surface—usually get lost in their star's glare. But as a planet orbits, its gravity makes its parent star wobble a tiny bit, resulting in slight color changes in the star's light due to the Doppler effect. These changes can only be spotted if the light is first broken into a spectrum of thin lines, which are then compared to an unchanging reference spectrum.

The NIST team made extensive new measurements of thorium, a heavy element often used in emission lamps that help provide that fixed ruler. Scientists have detected more than 400 planets using the Doppler technique but have yet to discover a solar system similar to ours. 

Stephen Redman, a postdoctoral fellow working at NIST, worked with NIST physicist Gillian Nave and physicist Craig Sansonetti to update the most recent thorough measurement of thorium's spectrum, published in 1983. The more than 8,000 spectral lines it lists are a bit fuzzy by today's standards—good enough to reveal the larger wobble caused by a Jupiter-sized gas giant's gravity, but not the small one an Earth-like world would cause. Redman spent a year combining observations he made on a spectrometer at NIST with data culled from other researchers' work. The result is a set of nearly 20,000 spectral lines of far greater clarity.

In addition to finding systems similar to our own, the new data should aid the search for planets around dwarf stars. These have been hard to find using the Doppler method, in part because dwarfs are so faint, but Nave says the new data include good lines in the near infrared, which is the region of the spectrum in which many of these cool stars give off the most light.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Touts Importance of Workforce Development at Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Touts Importance of Workforce Development at Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today toured the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR), a campus where academia, the private sector, and government organizations are working together to research and develop leading-edge technologies, and educate and train students for jobs in the automotive industry.

Ensuring that America has a strong and skilled workforce is essential to our economic competitiveness, and that is why Secretary Pritzker has made workforce development a key pillar of the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.”  In fact, she is the first Commerce Secretary to focus on how we can best prepare workers with in-demand job skills. The Commerce Department is playing a key role in this effort by partnering with businesses and other federal agencies to facilitate industry-driven training programs.

CU-ICAR is one example of an educational institution working directly with the private sector to conduct research and training that meets the needs of industry. Since collaboration between academia, the private sector and government started in 2003, CU-ICAR has grown into a 250-acre campus educating students and conducting research that is relevant to the global automotive community. CU-ICAR is studying advanced and highly efficient engine concepts that utilize a variety of fuels, developing technologies that increase vehicle electrification and efficiency, developing and utilizing advanced materials and processes that can reduce vehicle weight and decrease manufacturing costs. CU-ICAR is also working on identifying opportunities and technologies to reduce energy consumption in factories, and addressing issues of safety by designing improved human-machine interfaces and vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Celebrates BMW’s Investment in U.S. Manufacturing

Secretary Pritzker Speaks with Workers While Touring the BMW Facilities in Spartanburg, South Carolina

Foreign direct investment (FDI) fuels U.S. economic growth and creates good, high-paying jobs, which is why the Commerce Department is so focused on attracting more FDI to the United States. At an event today at the BMW manufacturing facility in Spartanburg, South Carolina, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker applauded the German automaker for announcing an investment of approximately $1 billion in a new X7 production line at the plant.

BMW’s announcement, which is expected to create 800 new jobs by 2016, builds upon the company’s substantial commitment to production in the United States. BMW has made investments of $6.3 billion since coming to South Carolina in 1992. In 2012, the company announced that it would be expanding its Spartanburg facility to make it the largest plant in the BMW Group production network, a move that is expected to bring 1,000 new jobs to South Carolina by the end of 2014.

Secretary Pritzker delivered remarks at the announcement, focusing on the importance of FDI to the U.S. economy and job creation. The United States is both the largest recipient and source of FDI in the world. As of 2011, the most recent data available, majority-owned subsidiaries of multinational firms with U.S. operations employ more than 5.6 million workers and pay an average annual compensation of $77,600. These firms also spent more than $45 billion in R&D in the United States and accounted for 20.5 percent of U.S. goods exported in 2011. Through the SelectUSA program, which Secretary Pritzker described in her remarks, the Department of Commerce is working to attract increased investment to the United States.

Clemson University’s Public-Private Partnerships Help Create Next-Generation Workforce

Secretary Pritzker and John Ballato, Clemson University vice president for economic development, toured the Clemson University-International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR)

Guest blog post by Dr. John Ballato, Clemson University vice president for economic development, and Kris Frady, director of operations for the Clemson University Center for Workforce Development
 
We had the privilege today of showing U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker the cutting-edge research and education that are helping South Carolina play a leading role in the nation’s economic revival.
 
She toured the Clemson University-International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) and then participated in a roundtable discussion with education and business leaders about how to develop a well-qualified workforce.
 
Her visit put a spotlight on the public-private partnerships that are helping create the next generation of engineers, scientists and technicians that America needs to remain competitive.
 
CU-ICAR in Greenville, S.C. is one of four Clemson University innovation campuses placed strategically across the state where businesses and communities need them most. It is an excellent example of what higher education, government and industry can accomplish when they work synergistically for the common good. It creates win-win partnerships.

Fostering Innovation through Strong, Sustainable Regional Partnerships

Fostering Innovation through Strong, Sustainable Regional Partnerships

Guest blog post by Matt Erskine, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Development

Earlier this week, I was honored to provide the keynote address at the International Economic Development Council’s (IEDC) 2014 Federal Economic Development Forum. Dr. Pat Gallagher, NIST Director performing the duties of Deputy Secretary and Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, also participated in the forum. Both applauded the important work of the IEDC in fostering economic growth in communities across America.

The work that IEDC members are doing in communities here and around the globe is critical, timely and mirrors our philosophy at EDA: only by working together in effective, strong, and sustainable regional partnerships will we realize our collective economic vision. 

In fact, the three guiding themes of this year’s IEDC Federal Forum – Learn, Teach, and Collaborate – reflect EDA’ core mission to establish a foundation for sustainable job growth through innovation and regional collaboration.

Through our flexible grant programs, EDA provides construction, technical assistance, financing, strategic planning and network building tools that local and regional entities can use to support their communities’ unique economic development strategies and objectives. 

Our model of competitive, merit based co-investment in support of strong regional economic development strategies is a proven approach – an approach that always looks to maximize the return on investment and the impact of our assistance in communities.

Today, we are focused on synchronizing federal programs to both maximize federal taxpayer returns and maximize the impact in the communities we serve.  By breaking down Washington’s bureaucratic silos, we can be a more effective partner.