The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), known between 1901 and 1988 as the National Bureau of Standards (NBS), is a measurement standards laboratory which is a non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce. The institute's mission is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve quality of life.
NIST had an operating budget for fiscal year 2007 (October 1, 2006-September 30, 2007) of about $843.3 million. NIST employs about 2,900 scientists, engineers, technicians, and support and administrative personnel. About 1,800 NIST associates (guest researchers and engineers from American companies and foreign nations) complement the staff. In addition, NIST partners with 1,400 manufacturing specialists and staff at nearly 350 affiliated centers around the country.
NIST's Boulder laboratories are best known for NIST-F1, one of the world's two most accurate atomic clocks. (The other is in Paris, France). NIST-F1 serves as the source of the nation's official time. From its precise measurement of the natural resonance frequency of cesium—which is used to define the second —NIST broadcasts time signals via longwave radio station WWVB at Fort Collins, Colorado, and shortwave radio stations WWV and WWVH, located at Fort Collins, Colorado and Kekaha, Hawaii, respectively.
NIST manages some of the world’s most specialized measurement facilities—including a cost effective NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) user facility where cutting edge research is done on new and improved materials, advanced fuel cells, and biotechnology. The SURF III Synchrotron Ultraviolet Radiation Facility is the world's senior dedicated source of synchrotron radiation, in continuous operation since 1961. SURF III now serves as the US primary national standard for source-based radiometry throughout the generalized optical spectrum: from infrared through extreme ultraviolet.
NIST's Advanced Measurement Laboratory (AML) is among the most technically advanced research facilities of its kind in the world. The AML offers American researchers opportunities to make the most sensitive and reliable measurements. This is important as new technologies become more complex and smaller.
Based in the AML is the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST). The CNST's prime objective is to lay the technical groundwork necessary to translate nanotechnology’s many anticipated offerings into practical realities—manufacturable, market-ready products. To accomplish this goal, the center leverages and combines the diverse knowledge and capabilities of NIST, industry, academia, and other government agencies to support all phases of nanotechnology development. The CNST features a Nanofabrication (Nanofab) Facility. CNST's “clean room” is equipped with an array of state-of-the-art tools for making, testing, and characterizing prototype nanoscale devices and materials. These instruments will be available to collaborators and outside users through a proposal process.
As part of its mission, NIST supplies industry, academia, government and other users with over 1,300 Standard Reference Materials (SRMs) of the highest quality and metrological value. These artifacts are certified as having specific characteristics or component content, making them valuable as calibration standards for measuring equipment and procedures, quality control benchmarks for industrial processes, and experimental control samples for all kinds of laboratories. For example, NIST SRMs for the food manufacturing sector include:
NIST has 7 standing committees:
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