National Institute of Standards and Technology

A physical sciences laboratory and a non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce with a mission to promote innovation and industrial competitiveness.
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The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a physical sciences laboratory and a non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce. Its mission is to promote innovation and industrial competitiveness. NIST's activities are organized into laboratory programs that include nanoscale science and technology, engineering, information technology, neutron research, material measurement, and physical measurement. It was formerly known as the National Bureau of Standards.

NIST is headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and operates a facility in Boulder, Colorado. NIST's activities are organized into laboratory programs and extramural programs. Effective October 1, 2010, NIST was realigned by reducing the number of NIST laboratory units from ten to six. NIST Laboratories include:

  • Communications Technology Laboratory (CTL)
  • Engineering Laboratory (EL)
  • Information Technology Laboratory (ITL)
  • Center for Neutron Research (NCNR)
  • Material Measurement Laboratory (MML)
  • Physical Measurement Laboratory (PML)

Extramural programs include:

Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a nationwide network of centers to assist small and mid-sized manufacturers to create and retain jobs, improve efficiencies, and minimize waste through process improvements and to increase market penetration with innovation and growth strategies;
Technology Innovation Program (TIP), a grant program where NIST and industry partners cost-share the early-stage development of innovative but high-risk technologies;
Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, which administers the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation's highest award for performance and business excellence.

NIST's Boulder laboratories are best known for NIST‑F1, which houses an atomic clock. NIST‑F1 serves as the source of the nation's official time. From its measurement of the natural resonance frequency of cesium—which defines the second—NIST broadcasts time signals via longwave radio station WWVB near Fort Collins, Colorado, and shortwave radio stations WWV and WWVH, located near Fort Collins and Kekaha, Hawaii, respectively.

NIST also operates a neutron science user facility: the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR). The NCNR provides scientists access to a variety of neutron scattering instruments, which they use in many research fields (materials science, fuel cells, biotechnology, etc.).

The SURF III Synchrotron Ultraviolet Radiation Facility is a source of synchrotron radiation, in continuous operation since 1961. SURF III now serves as the US national standard for source-based radiometry throughout the generalized optical spectrum. All NASA-borne, extreme-ultraviolet observation instruments have been calibrated at SURF since the 1970s, and SURF is used for measurement and characterization of systems for extreme-ultraviolet lithography.

The Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST) performs research in nanotechnology, both through internal research efforts and by running a user-accessible cleanroom nanomanufacturing facility. This "NanoFab" is equipped with tools for lithographic patterning and imaging (e.g., electron microscopes and atomic force microscopes).

Key Terms

extramural programs
laboratory programs
national institute standards

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Last modified on December 10 2019
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