Technology Transfer Opportunities – National Institute of Standards and Technology

Final Report
Technology Transfer Opportunities in Federal Laboratories
National Institute of Standards and Technology
April 1994
Revised August 1994
Prepared for:
Utility Federal Technology Opportunities (UFTO)
Edward Beardsworth

This report is part of a series examining technology opportunities at National Laboratories of possible interest to electric utilities

1. Summary
3. NIST Organization
4. NIST Technologies and Programs
9. NIST Contacts

This report is proprietary and confidential. It is for internal use by personnel of companies that are subscribers in the UFTO multi-client program. It is not to be otherwise copied or distributed except as authorized in writing.


This report details findings about technology and technology transfer opportunities at National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that might be of strategic interest to electric utilities. It is based on two visits to NIST headquarters in Gaithersberg MD (in April and August 1994), as part of a project for PSI Energy, which had the additional goal to establish relationships that will enable PSI to monitor developments and gain access on an ongoing basis.

Noting the tremendous scope of research underway in the research facilities of the U.S. government, and a very strong impetus on the government’s part to foster commercial partnering with industry and applications of the technology it has developed, PSI Energy supported this project to become familiar with the content and process of those programs, and to seek out opportunities for collaboration, demonstration or other forms of participation that will further the business objectives of PSI. PSI has agreed to make these results available to the participants in UFTO.

NIST Organization

NIST, formerly the National Bureau of Standards, is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Its mission and organization are quite different from other federal research entities, and it has gained significantly increased stature, budget, and role with the Clinton administration.

There are approximately 3000 employees, mostly at Gaithersberg MD and in a smaller facility in Boulder CO.

NIST is organized into 8 “Laboratories”, each of which has a remarkable degree of independence in style and approach. In fact, the NIST culture is said to have decision making pushed down to the lowest appropriate layer of the organization. Decisions about industry collaborations are made at the project level 90% of the time, and only 1% need management attention above the Laboratory level.

Each Laboratory covers a particular set of disciplines:

The Laboratories:
Electronics and Electrical Engineering (EEEL)
Manufacturing Engineering
Chemical Science and Technology
Materials Science and Engineering
Building and Fire Research
Computing and Applied Mathematics

Each laboratory is made up of a number of “divisions”. EEEL, for example, includes the Electricity Division, and the Semiconductor, Electromagnetic Fields, and Electromagnetic Technology Divisions. Each Division is made up of a number of “groups”, which are in turn subdivided in smaller subgroups.

The Electricity Division of EEEL has the greatest overlap with the electric utility industry, and has agreed to act as a main point of contact for UFTO.

NIST and the Electric Power Industry
NIST is very different from the DOE labs or other federal research organizations, in that it’s primary mission is and has always been to provide direct support to industry. Its origins were in the early 1900’s, as the electric equipment industry was taking off. Needed measurement capabilities were available only in Europe, and the equipment makers lobbied for the creation of the National Bureau of Standards (as NIST was known until fairly recently). Accuracy in metering was a big consumer issue in the 1920’s, and NBS’s findings that watthour meters underreport power consumption made them welcome friends to the utilities. NIST continues to be very active in metering reference standards, loss measurements, and a number of other areas of direct connection with the industry.

NIST Programs
NIST will work with a single company as a means to an end, with the goal clearly in mind to help all industry on a broad basis. Its entire budget is programmed for this purpose, unlike other agencies like DOE which must try to reprogram funds earmarked for specific R&D in order to be able to work on industry problems. NIST’s budget is growing at a dramatic rate with the new administration. However this growth is on a base that is still quite small in comparison to DOE and other agencies, reflecting the traditional discomfort in the U.S. with the idea of government working directly with industry.

NIST treats nondisclosure/confidentiality/proprietary concerns on a case-by-case basis, recognizing that some times it is necessary to work with just one player in order to make something happen. This has been clearly the case in working with the highly competitive semiconductor industry. (The suggestion was made that a case study of Sematech would be instructive — very successful industry collaboration.) Until recently, NIST had a larger total number of CRADAs than DOE, with a factor of 100 fewer people (about 3000 altogether).

Until the very recent broadening of NIST’s mandate (see below), the emphasis has always been on metrology, or the science of measurement. That is the point of view from which NIST has generally viewed the world, and which continues to describe their primary mission. For example, they have a major initiative to develop standards based on fundamental properties, rather than physical copies (e.g. the “electronic kilogram”). Nanometrology, or micromeasurement, is another key area of effort.

Major new programs reflect a broader perspective and mission related to U.S. competitiveness and jobs.

• The Advanced Technology Program (ATP) , Tom Leedy, Program Manager, 975-2410
Funding tripled this year to $200 million, and will increase to $450 and $750 million over the next two years. This money is for grants for high risk high payoff technology development proposals. ATP has recently begun discussing possible “themes” . One suggestion is the productive use of byproducts in materials processing–could be an opening for flyash utilization!

• The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Modeled on the agricultural extension service concept, this program will soon expand to over 100 centers around the country, to teach new production methods to small manufacturers.

• NIST also administers the Malcolm Baldridge award.

General Observations
Visiting NIST, one can’t help but notice the total openness of the environment. There is no security! One simply drives in to the grounds, which resemble a college campus surrounded by huge open space, enters a building and looks for the corridor and office of the person being visited. (This is in dramatic contrast to DOE facilities. At weapons labs in particular, you need to declare your U.S. citizenship and provide your social security number in advance, and come prepared with a photo ID.) And NIST’s phone directory and a guide to their technical programs is available on-line.

NIST has not experienced any lack of opportunities to work with industry, and rarely have to beat the bushes. Very few of the 300 CRADAs were advertised.

All of NIST’s funds are programmed for working with industry. There is no separate budget for this, and each lab director has full authority for decisions on partnering, and how much of the budget is to be allocated for this kind of activity. Business arrangements can be highly varied, from a handshake to a 50 page contract.

NIST is required to have “Review Panels” that review programs and make recommendations regarding NIST’s strategy and tactical approach. Organized by the National Research Council, these groups meet annually for 2-3 days, one for each NIST “Laboratory”. Each Division makes presentations, and there are smaller breakout meetings also. These have included representatives from utilities from time to time.

Technology Commercialization/Transfer
NIST is in the process of reevaluating its whole approach to technology commercialization, i.e. whether to pursue technology development further up or downstream, to get more industry input, to go for more patents, etc. Currently there is no “generalized marketing” function, and technical staff are generally wary of uninformed cold calls from the outside (but will always respond to phone calls or letters!). The Office of Technology Commercialization serves the Laboratories and Divisions with help on patents, licensing and other business arrangements, e.g. for use of facilities by outsiders, or guest researchers.

NIST Technologies and Programs

(Telephone Area Code is 301)
Electronics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory (EEEL)

The Electricity Division has a number of programs directed at issues connected with the utility industry, including improved techniques for measurements of steady-state and transient high voltages and currents, characterization of power quality, and calibration and measurement techniques to characterize electric and magnetic fields and ion densities.

• Partial Discharge, Dick Van Brunt, 975-2418
— Partial Discharge Analysis. Phase correlated noise near the peaks of the plus and minus parts of the 60 cycle waveform are recorded and digitized, and saved for subsequent analysis. The best commercially available instrument is expensive and complex, and lacks the important capability to store data for later reanalysis (and to maintain a history). NIST is developing new techniques to analyze signal properties using pattern recognition.

Patterns are compared against simulations to provide diagnosis of type of discharge, probable cause, and consequences (Is it changing? How soon to failure?). They are just starting a project for the NRC to test instrument cables from decommissioned plants. Also, PDA can help to interpret implications of manufacturers specs. (picocoulomb partial discharge).

Partial Discharge in liquids has very different phenomenology from what occurs in gases, and is only partially understood. Work in this area was motivated by the need for high voltage switches for SDI, and contributes to the development of PCB replacements for transformers and capacitors.

— Detecting trace quantities of S2F10 in small samples. S2F10, which is highly toxic, is produced in tiny quantities during partial discharge in SF6. Possible but unlikely health risk. Developing cheaper more portable instrument as add-on to a residual gas analyzer to use in place of laboratory gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer. (with ORNL and Ontario Hydro)

• Optical CT (HV Current Meter), Gerry Fitzpatrick, 975-2737 & Eric Simmon, 975-3956
A few manufacturers (ABB, 3-M, Square-D, also Toshiba) have prototype “production” units, and want NIST calibrations. There are two types. One uses bulk glass, and the other has a glass fiber looped around the conductor a number of times. The magneto optic (Faraday) effect causes a rotation in the polarization of light along the length of the fiber, and thus a measure of the magnetic field and current. Advantages: electrically isolated, explosion-proof. Disadvantages: more complicated, sensitive to vibration and temperature. There are still problems to be overcome. Fibers need to be annealed to get rid of stresses of coiling–made for light/data transmission, not this application. ABB’s unit, a bulk glass type, is now commercialized, and there are 35-40 units in service at various utilities. There’s an Optical Sensor Mfg. User Group (OPSMUG), and EPRI (Jan Stein) is involved.

[Note by EB — I have contact names at each of the manufacturers.]

• High Voltage Impulse Testing, Gerry Fitzpatrick, 975-2737
Multi-megavolt testing of apparatus requires a voltage divider to measure the applied voltage. The divider can see a pulse shape that’s different from the actual applied pulse, leaving doubt whether test standards have been accurately met. NIST develops faster reference dividers and better (digitized) HV measurements, and also sets up round-robin tests with manufacturers. The standards themselves are established by industry to reflect ultimate equipment performance, NIST’s role is to assure that the (metrology of the) test itself meets the standard, and not whether the standard correctly represents performance of the equipment under test.

• Watt-hour Meter Testing, Tom Nelson, 975-2986, and Barry Bell, 975-3972
This original mission of NIST continues to be important, particularly as new metering technology (e.g. solid state) and power quality issues(e.g. harmonics) raise new concerns about the accuracy and impact of meters. NIST both performs tests of meters and maintaining an active R&D program, enabling them to conduct special tests beyond the standard ones. Also, the Measurement Assurance Program evaluates the performance of a customer’s (manufacturer’s own energy measuring systems.

Calibration of secondary standards is done for manufacturers, utilities and PUCs on a fee-for-service basis.

• EMF Measurement Techniques, Martin Misakian, 975-2426
NIST’s activities include providing EMF related consultation and measurement support to other agencies and researches, and the development of metrology related standards. For example, EMF measurements in exposure systems during site visits provide for quality control of the exposure parameters; standards aid in ensuring uniformity of measurement procedures and accuray of measurements. This latter activity is important because a number of states have set maximum field limits in and at the edge of the right-of-way.

Material Sciences and Engineering Laboratory has about 300 people altogether. In addition to metallurgy, there are four other divisions which have not yet been reviewed: Ceramics, Polymers, Materials Reliability, and Reactor Radiation.

• Metallurgy Division, Neville Pugh, Chief, 975-5960

Prime collaboration with industry –have 20 CRADAs. In process of developing closer ties with Federal Labs (Sandia, ORNL, Wright Labs and with universities (MIT).

Emphasis on Process Control–sensing in-situ for “intelligent processing”, using models of the process to provide feedback in real time.
Powder metallurgy–able to control particle size
Materials Characterization — structure, properties, corrosion, fracture, fatigue, hydrogen embrittlement, stress corrosion cracking.

Material Performance Group, Richard Ricker, 975-6023
Formed by the recent joining of the Mechanical Properties and Corrosion Groups. This group studies all factors that influence the behavior of materials in service, e.g. corrosion, fracture, fatigue, and laboratory measurements for predicting performance.

Work with materials producers for the most part, and to some extent “users” like GE or Pratt and Whitney. Would have liked to respond to EPRI RFP on Corrosion Cracking Embrittlement Data Program, but couldn’t due to restrictions on competing with industry.

Develops Expert Systems and databases on Corrosion for EPRI with N.A.C.E. — “POWER•COR” software modules guide electric utilities on corrosion control in condensers and service water systems, environmentally induced fracture, intergranular corrosion in fgd systems, and microbiological influenced corrosion.

Prefer to work on generic problems rather than special/single situations. Feels there would be too much in the program that doesn’t apply to utilities for a general “dog & pony” tour at NIST.
Perhaps discussions would be useful about condensors (Indicated that it is well known that copper is the main problem, and only need to keep ammonia out of the system — really an educational issue to take the proper care and monitoring of water chemistry.)

Building and Fire Research Laboratory has four divisions:

Structures Div.: has interacted with EPRI on wind engineering (design standards for wind loads) and earthquake codes and retrofit.
Building Materials Div: G. Frohnsdorff, Chief 975-6706 — leading research group in U.S. on cement science. Work on concrete, paint, roofing–durability standards, predicted life. Interests in uses for flyash — open to suggestions about how NIST can become involved. Held a workshop 6/93 on autoclaved autocellular concrete
Fire Science and Fire Safety Engineering Div. — a possibly significant area for utilities that has not yet been tapped!

• Building Environment Division, Jim Hill, Chief, 975-5851
The Building Environment Division (about 50 people) deals with energy use in buildings, CFC replacement, indoor air quality, and interior environment (lighting, thermal comfort, etc.)

Green Buildings — with funding specifically mandated by Congress, this may turn into something like the intelligent buildings program, with manufacturers promoting their wares. Basic objective is to use environmentally safe materials in buildings, and to develop technologies that are conducive to energy efficiency. NIST’s part includes indoor air quality, CFC replacements, thermal insulation, building automation, envelope design concepts, and standards (thru ASTM). A series of demonstration buildings will be constructed. (See NIST Special Publication 863, U.S. Green Building Conference–1994)

Insulation R-Value Measurement: Hunter Fanney, 975-5864
Develop measurement standards and technniques, and certify NAHB measurements. New higher insulation value materials can be harder to measure accurately, for example, gas filled panels have an R-value of about 15/inch, powder evacuated panels 25/inch, and vacuum stainless steel is estimated theoretically to reach as high as 100/inch. A large calibrated hot box can accommodate actual size wall systems for detailed performance measurements vs. temperature and humidity, including weather cycles.

Thermal Conductivity: A unique “guarded hot plate” device enables the calibration of samples.

CFC replacements David Didion, 975-5881 and Piotr Domanski, 975-5877 — Fundamental research, system modeling, flammability and performance testing of new refrigerants (with EPRI and individual companies). NIST had a long head start with this work, having begun in 1983 to investigate refrigerant mixtures for other reasons. Adequate replacements for R-22 not coming easily. To keep same efficiency, equipment modifications may be needed. Don’t expect U.S. to accept a flammable refrigerant, making search more difficult

NIST supports the DOE Appliance Standards Program (they specify the tests in 15 categories of appliances) they were able to expedite establishment of the testing and rating procedures for the EPRI/Carrier heat pump. They also did modeling and ran tests. For a local utility, they monitored a unit in a field test in a home.

• Network Architecture, Tassos Nakassis, Acting Chief, Systems and Network Architecture Division, Computer Systems Lab, 975-3632

NIST has been involved with establishing specs for open systems for over 15 years, when effort began to make DARPA network (original internet) widely used. First tried open standards, where government agencies “should” conform unless specifically exempted.
Most recently, the Industry Government Open Standards Spec (IGOSS) allow for custom additions (e.g. for security) to basic OSI specs. (EPRI’s UCA is an OSI derivative.)

Proposed NII/Internet protocols (EPRI has provided comments) conflict with OSI. New government procurement policies expected that leave it wide open, with only a “suggested” spec.

This group also involved in the issue of Internet is running out of addresses and routing tables, and there is a direct concern for the utility industry. Recently EPRI asked for 5 million addresses for an experimental program (500,000 customers and 10 devices each??). Outcome is unclear at this time.

Other: Need to assure protocols function with security. Remote database access. Use of OSI addresses on the Internet. EDI procurement, conventions. Collaborating with industry on health care systems. Automatic translation tools (to modern programming languages).

Research interest: How to test software and assure reliability. Need mtbf > 500 years!! Concept of “holographic proof” to get around basic impossibility of testing every possible situation.

NIST Contacts:

General Phone # is 301-975-2000 , in Gaithersburg, MD
A smaller facility is located in Boulder CO , 303-497-3000

Primary UFTO Contact:
Dr. Alan Cookson, Associate Director, EEEL, Chief, Electricity Division, 301-975-2220
Also, Joe Greenberg 301-975-2439

Public Affairs Division: 301-975-2762
Jennifer Wright 301-975-2785


Over 300 publications/year. Contact Publications and Program Inquiries, 301-975-3058

Technology at a Glance (free quarterly newsletter) call Gail Porter 301-975-3392

Guide to NIST (Oct ’93) Special Publication 858
116 page book — excellent overview of NIST, programs, facilities, organization, services.

Electronic Systems: NIST is accessible via Internet and several specialized bulletin boards. (See Guide to NIST.)