6

Materials Science and Engineering Laboratory



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 6 Materials Science and Engineering Laboratory

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 PANEL MEMBERS James Economy, University of Illinois, Chair Dawn A. Bonnell, University of Pennsylvania Stephen Z.D. Cheng, University of Akron Michael J. Cima, Massachusetts Institute of Technology F.W. Gordon Fearon, Dow Corning Corporation Katharine G. Frase, IBM Microelectronics Division David W. Johnson, Jr., Bell Laboratories/Lucent Technologies Rodney A. McKee, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Donald R. Paul, University of Texas at Austin Elsa Reichmanis, Bell Laboratories/Lucent Technologies Iwona Turlik, Motorola Advanced Technology Center James C. Williams, Ohio State University Walter L. Winterbottom, AEMP Corporation Submitted for the panel by its Chair, James Economy, this assessment of the fiscal year 2000 activities of the Materials Science and Engineering Laboratory is based on site visits by individual panel members, a formal meeting of the panel on March 16-17, 2000, in Gaithersburg, Md., and documents provided by the laboratory.

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 LABORATORY-LEVEL REVIEW Laboratory Mission According to laboratory documentation, the mission of the Materials Science and Engineering Laboratory (MSEL) is to promote U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and use a measurements and standards infrastructure for materials. MSEL strives to meet its mission through the work of four laboratory divisions: Materials Reliability, Metallurgy, Polymers, and Ceramics; through the MSEL Center for Theoretical and Computational Materials Science (CTCMS); and through the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR). The four divisions and the NCNR are reviewed in detail below; the work of CTCMS cuts across the divisions and is assessed in the context of the divisions' work. In general, the panel found the work going on in the MSEL to be appropriate to the MSEL and NIST missions. As discussed in the following section, it is a continual challenge to the MSEL not just to meet the measurement and standards needs that industry can currently identify but also to anticipate future needs of both established and nascent industries. This is particularly true given the enormous structural changes under way in industry as globalization continues. The panel notes, however, that while industries may change, the need for basic measurements and standards will exist as long as there is commerce. By continuing to focus on the basic measurement and standards mission of NIST, MSEL is most likely to ensure the relevance of its work to the U.S. industrial infrastructure. Technical Merit and Appropriateness of Work MSEL continues to maintain the strong technical merit of its programs. Examples of programs that are at the state of the art or define it can be found throughout the laboratory. For example, the Synchrotron Radiation Characterization Program develops, maintains, and applies measurement methods using synchrotron radiation for a variety of materials science problems. This program is carried out by scientists of outstanding abilities, who have great enthusiasm for their work and have made possible unparalleled materials characterization capabilities. These capabilities are utilized not only by MSEL researchers but also by other NIST scientists and their industrial and academic collaborators. Another outstanding project investigated the causes of “sharkskin, ” an undesirable surface roughness that sometimes comes about during extrusion of polymers. By using a state-of-the-art velocimetry measurement technique, the laboratory has gained fundamental insights into this phenomenon. These insights will open up multiple avenues for improving polymer extrusion processes. These are only two examples of the many technically excellent programs going on in MSEL. The divisional reports below give detailed assessments of the technical merit of ongoing projects and programs. With few exceptions, MSEL's programs and projects are appropriate tasks for NIST. They utilize unique NIST expertise or measurement capabilities or address topics that would not normally be investigated by industrial or academic colleagues. It is clear that the programs are generally addressing identified industry needs. Since measurements and standards often underpin advances in technology, however, it is not enough for MSEL to simply meet currently identified needs. It must anticipate measurements and standards needs before they arise. MSEL expends substantial efforts to do so, interacting with its customers and potential customers formally and informally. It makes particularly good use of workshops, convening meetings of scientists and engineers from across industry sectors to determine the need for measurement and standards in emerging areas. Nonetheless, the panel urges MSEL to explore additional avenues to determine anticipated needs, giving particular attention to

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 developing ties at the appropriate technical and managerial levels in its customer organizations to obtain the insights it requires to make major programmatic decisions. Many of the most pressing problems in materials science exist at the interfaces of disciplines within the field or between materials science and other fields. Many interdisciplinary efforts, both intra-and interlaboratory, were observed by the panel. The panel applauds the application of technical talent to problems without regard to the administrative unit in which the talent is found. Most if not all of these interactions developed on an ad hoc basis through the initiative of individual scientists. The panel believes that greater potential for synergy exists in the laboratory, and MSEL should consider mechanisms to specifically foster such inter- and intralaboratory collaborations. A good example of such a mechanism is CTCMS, which serves as an intellectual gathering place for researchers from across MSEL who find that computational methods can advance their work. Just as CTCMS has provided MSEL researchers with a new capability, the panel believes the potential exists for major new strengths at MSEL if additional interdisciplinary collaborations can be fostered. Impact of Programs The primary impact of MSEL programs is achieved through the eventual adoption of NIST results by industry. This transfer of technical knowledge and techniques is important but often difficult to quantify. However, the collective experience of the panel members leads to the judgment that MSEL programs do have a positive impact on the industries served, and often a substantial one. The divisional reports below detail some of the successes MSEL has had in the past year. MSEL disseminates the results of its research projects through means as formal as refereed technical publications and as informal as taking telephone inquiries. The panel applauds the priority the laboratory gives to ensuring that the information it generates is placed in the public domain whenever feasible and is available for public use. This priority guides the laboratory's use of the World Wide Web, publications, and decisions on when and whether to seek patents. Staff clearly understand that their results are of no worth if they do not reach the customers who need them. The laboratory has continued to seek new ways to reach its customers. The panel was particularly pleased with the Recommended Practice Guides that MSEL has begun providing as part of its services. These highly practical guides will help ensure that NIST customers properly implement the standards and measurements techniques they obtain from NIST. MSEL's use of the World Wide Web has continued to mature, and the panel applauds MSEL efforts to exploit this medium efficiently. The panel suggests that better use could be made of information on the type and frequency of hits to various MSEL Web pages to measure program impact. Laboratory Resources Funding sources for the Materials Science and Engineering Laboratory are shown in Table 6.1. As of January 2000, staffing for the Materials Science and Engineering Laboratory included 178 full-time permanent positions, of which 151 were for technical professionals. There were also 34 nonpermanent and supplemental personnel, such as postdoctoral research associates and part-time workers. A year earlier, these numbers were 199, 166, and 39, respectively. Equipment and facilities of the MSEL are generally adequate to the tasks before it. The exception to this are facilities at the Boulder site, which require repairs (see the Materials Reliability Division report below). The factor that currently limits MSEL is the number of personnel. Flat budgets and mandated salary and benefit increases have combined to squeeze the effective budget available for staff. All areas of

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 TABLE 6.1 Sources of Funding for the Materials Science and Engineering Laboratory (in millions of dollars), FY 1997 to FY 2000 Source of Funding Fiscal Year 1997 (actual) Fiscal Year 1998 (actual) Fiscal Year 1999 (actual) Fiscal Year 2000 (estimated) NIST-STRS, excluding Competence 31.4 30.9 30.6 30.5 Competence 0.2 0.0 0.3 0.2 ATP 3.4 3.0 2.5 2.2 Measurement Services (SRM production) 1.0 0.7 0.9 0.7 OA/NFG/CRADA 6.6 4.9 3.8 2.8 Other Reimbursable 0.6 0.2 0.2 0.6 Totala 43.2 39.7 38.3 37.0 Full-time permanent staff (total)b,c 214 209 199 178 NOTE: Funding for the NIST Measurement and Standards Laboratories comes from a variety of sources. The laboratories receive appropriations from Congress, known as Scientific and Technical Research and Services (STRS) funding. Competence funding also comes from NIST's congressional appropriations but is allocated by the NIST director's office in multiyear grants for projects that advance NIST's capabilities in new and emerging areas of measurement science. Advanced Technology Program (ATP) funding reflects support from NIST's ATP for work done at the NIST laboratories in collaboration with or in support of ATP projects. Funding to support production of Standard Reference Materials (SRMs) is tied to the use of such products and is classified as Measurement Services. NIST laboratories also receive funding through grants or contracts from other government agencies (OA), from nonfederal government (NFG) agencies, and from industry in the form of Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs). All other laboratory funding, including that for Calibration Services, is grouped under “Other Reimbursable.” a The funding for the NCNR is excluded from these totals. Information about the Center's funding is available in the section of this report containing the subpanel review of that facility. b NCNR personnel are excluded from these totals. Information about the center's personnel is available in the section of this report containing the subpanel review of that facility. c The number of full-time permanent staff is as of January of that fiscal year. MSEL are tightly staffed, with important programs staffed just one deep with no trained backup. Some areas of MSEL have been affected by reductions in force and the upheaval and effect on morale that result. The panel applauds MSEL's use of postdoctoral fellows to obtain new talent and skills without long-term commitment. This mechanism helps MSEL meet short-term staffing needs and allows it to sample available talent and recruit those whose skills match MSEL's long-term needs. The value of postdoctoral positions as a recruitment tool is demonstrated by the fact that four of the five current division chiefs came to MSEL through the postdoctoral program. The panel applauds a fiscal year 2001 proposal for increased funding for the postdoctoral program at NIST and hopes for the proposal's success, because more postdoctoral fellows would be a boon to MSEL. The panel applauds initial MSEL efforts to better integrate staff and activities at Boulder with those at Gaithersburg. These efforts must continue and even strengthen. The panel is pleased that the MSEL director has designated funds for managers and researchers to travel between Boulder and Gaithersburg to determine the potential for, and to carry out, interdivisional collaborations. The panel urges MSEL management to seek additional methods to integrate the work of the two campuses.

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 DIVISIONAL REVIEWS Ceramics Division Division Mission According to division documentation, the mission of the Ceramics Division is to work with industry, standards bodies, academia, and other government agencies and in providing the leadership for the nation's measurements and standards infrastructure for ceramic materials. This mission conforms with both the MSEL and the NIST missions, and the programs going on in the Ceramics Division are aimed toward this mission. The programs cover a broad cross section of ceramic materials, processing, and characterization1 and are generally chosen to have measurement methods and standards as their research outcome. Technical Merit and Appropriateness of Work The Ceramics Division has a strong reputation for excellence based on the quality of its researchers, the effectiveness of its management, and a track record of providing high-quality and useful measurement methods and standards. The division has been diligent in evolving its program mix to meet the needs of the modern ceramic materials field. The primary focus of the Ceramic Coatings Program has been ceramic thermal barrier coatings, with specific attention paid to coatings produced by plasma spray techniques. The program has contributed to the understanding of the sources of coating defects, with emphasis on effects of the powder source material and plasma spray conditions. The program recently investigated the relative distribution and orientation of cracks and porosity within plasma spray coatings and is one of the leaders in developing methods to determine in situ film stress. Thermal barrier coatings fail by oxidation and stress at the bond coat. Methods for monitoring this stress with time and as a function of environmental conditions form the basis for rational life prediction models of the thermal barrier. The division is facing some shifts in the technical direction of the Ceramic Coatings Program. There is a trend toward physical vapor deposition (PVD) as the method of choice for producing coatings in aircraft engines, because it produces more reliable coatings than thermal spray methods. The Ceramics Coatings Program is moving into this area, and the panel supports this move. Indeed, some of the division's novel characterization methods are directly transferable to industrial use. The division recognizes that it must reduce effort on powder behavior, since this is not a factor for PVD-deposited coatings. The panel supports expanding the use of division expertise beyond thermal barrier coatings into, for example, more wear coatings applications. The area of wear coatings is an important one for ceramics, and expanding research in this area would result in a significant increase in the materials available for study. The group has successfully leveraged partnerships with producers of thermal barrier coatings to gain access to samples of state-of-the-art coatings. A similar approach is recommended in other application areas. The technical focus of the Ceramics Manufacturing Program has been primarily in two areas: ceramic powder characterization (including both raw materials and particle dispersions in liquid media) 1   U.S. Department of Commerce, Technology Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Ceramics: 1999 Programs and Accomplishments, NISTIR 6433, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Md., January 2000.

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 and characterization of machining damage. The program has also developed a considerable number of Standard Reference Materials (SRMs). A recent effort has been the development of a Guide to Practice for characterization of particle size and size distribution of ceramic powders. This document will provide general guidelines for applying measurement and characterization methods to ceramic powders. The division has worked hard to incorporate industrial input on the direction and scope of the program through the establishment of the Ceramic Processing and Characterization Council and the Ceramic Machining Consortium. The Ceramic Thin Film Measurements and Standards Program focuses on functional ceramic thin films, which are critical to many emerging technologies and to evolving applications in electronics, telecommunications, and information handling. The program receives advice from an industrial review panel that reports annually. As a consequence, the focus of the program has moved toward thin film characterization. This approach exploits the competences of current program staff and recently produced several advances. A notable example is a protocol for quantifying the texture in a microstructure, a technology developed by the division that has already been transferred to a collaborator in industry. This project resulted in a software product now available on the Web site. Another example is a cross-laboratory effort with the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory to develop methodologies for measuring the composition of dielectric films, such as those used in III-V semiconductor compounds. A new project in this program focuses on the measurement of ferroelectric domain structure and stability. This technology is used in memory devices and other electronic and optoelectronic applications. This project, which promises to have considerable impact, involves challenging nanometer-scale metrology issues. Results from the Ceramic Thin Film Measurement and Standards Program continue to be published in the most highly regarded journals in the field. The Magnetic Materials Program contributes through the development of techniques for nanotribology. The focus of this program is on measuring friction, stiction, adhesion, wear, and durability of magnetic hard-disk systems. This program has resulted in valuable understanding on how to evaluate wear and lubrication in magnetic disks. The panel believes that the division's expertise and experimental equipment for nanotribology could also provide measurements and standards for the friction and adhesion problems being encountered by the emerging microelectromechanical systems industry. The Ceramics Division is planning a workshop to explore opportunities in this area. The Mechanical Properties of Brittle Materials Program has been around a long time but continues to evolve to meet emerging needs. The Ceramics Division has historically led the world in developing understanding of brittle materials and testing methodologies and standards for them. The division's contributions to knowledge and practice in this area continue at a high level. A prominent example of the division 's results is the release of the OOF (object-oriented finite element) software for modeling properties of complex microstructures. The public domain program has been downloaded by more than 300 researchers, many of whom are providing feedback to the division for use in future upgrades. Current activity seeks to incorporate electromechanical responses into the software's models. Another noteworthy direction is the development of techniques to measure ceramic membrane properties at high temperature. Current work focuses on the development of instrumentation to characterize material stress, including indentation protocols for testing the materials. The panel applauds the efforts to scale the Mechanical Properties of Brittle Materials Program to current needs and to leverage the division's expertise in mechanical properties to new fields. This group of researchers can make significant contributions in nanoindentation, nanotribology, microadhesion, properties of biomedical materials, and other areas. By attacking problems of cellular adhesion to medical implants, for example, the program could gain expertise in the properties of biomolecular systems, and the biomolecular materials community would benefit from the rigorous approaches developed in this program.

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 The Phase Equilibria for Ceramics and Metals Program is another long-standing program within the division that has been highly praised in the past, so that little needs to be added in this report. Thermodynamic phase equilibrium data, which identify and quantify the final, stable products of a process, are essential tools for developers and manufacturers of engineered materials. The program has provided information to the ceramics community that could not have been easily obtained otherwise. The data assembled in this program are used broadly, not only within the ceramics community but also in related fields. Importantly, this program is not merely compiling experimental data but is also developing first-principles models as a basis for the equilibria. The panel holds this up as a good example of a program that has a long history of relevant results, has produced valuable output, and evolves appropriately with changing needs. The Synchrotron Radiation Characterization Program is one of the gems of the division. It involves the operation of beam stations at the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the commissioning of beam stations at the Advanced Photon source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory. The technical merit of this program is very high, with access to facilities with unparalleled capabilities for materials characterization. The demonstrated technical achievements include materials characterization on a variety of scales, which can be used, for example, to determine local crystallographic order. The high photon flux available at these beam lines makes it possible to perform these measurements on very small samples, on very small regions of a larger sample, and on samples that quickly decompose upon exposure to x rays. The division believes the APS beam lines will make it possible to obtain data from a sample or regions of samples less than 1 mm in size. This goal is very impressive and could lead to entirely new ways to characterize microstructures that can only now be determined by laborious transmission electron microscopy methods. The high photon flux that will be available will also make possible the study of extended defects in crystals and material damage that is difficult to observe by other methods. The scientists participating in this program are of the highest caliber and exude enthusiasm for their work. There is commitment to this program from across the MSEL and throughout NIST. Finally, the panel suggests that the division assess what contributions it could make to the important area of optical materials. Examples of areas in which the division's expertise might be leveraged include the structural characterization of glass in graded structures; the measurement of optical properties in electro-optic ceramics; and the development of practical, low-cost, in situ measurements of index of refraction during optical film growth. Impact of Programs As is often the case for research, it is difficult to quantify the impact of the division's programs. However, one program whose impact can be quantified is the OOF computer program. It has been downloaded by more than 300 users, and the related mailing list contains more than 100 subscribers. The panel notes that some development at the level of the inexperienced user would increase its impact to an even more general community. This could be accomplished by a Web-based tutorial that, in contrast to formal workshops or tutorial courses, is available to users at the time they realize they need it. Similarly, for the Phase Equilibria for Ceramics and Metals Program, the sales of output data compilations give ample quantitative evidence of the positive impact. Finally, the willingness of the members of the industrial review panel that provides guidance to the Ceramic Thin Film Measurements and Standards Program to donate their time and expertise is concrete evidence of the importance of this program to the industries it serves.

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 The impact of the Synchrotron Radiation Characterization Program is high. The proposed move toward high-throughput testing of materials is very timely, given the exploding interest in combinatorial techniques for materials discovery. This direction supports important objectives for NIST since it can make possible rapid development of materials data and can validate combinatorial methods or at least the experimental protocols used for a given series of combinatorial tests. Numerous examples exist of the technical impact of this program. For example, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization now uses protocols developed in this program to evaluate subsurface machining damage on missile detector windows. The staff of this program have produced a large number of publications, both on their own and as collaborators with investigators at other institutions. The Ceramics Manufacturing Program is a large, reorganized effort with new management that aims at increasing its impact. The panel concluded that the NIST mission might be better served with a more fundamental approach to ceramics manufacturing or, better still, a special emphasis on new and novel techniques for measuring important process conditions. One example might be an effort on methods that measure the largest particles in a distribution rather than the average particle size. It is these large particles that cause problems in ceramic component quality. There are, however, no accepted means by which to judge the fraction of such large particles in raw materials for ceramics manufacturing. Another example is in the area of new techniques for measuring very small particles (nanoparticles) in suspensions (sols) where light-scattering methods are not reliable. The panel believes that the Ceramics Processing and Characterization Council and the Ceramics Machining Consortium are useful organizations that can enhance communication in these manufacturing areas. The panel suggests that the Ceramics Processing and Characterization Council continue to be relied on for communication and that the Ceramics Division take a stronger role in leveraging its in-house expertise and experience in project selection. The impact of the Ceramic Coatings Program can be assessed by looking at industry's needs. The use of thermal barrier coatings will soon become critical for many components; that is, the component will not function without the coating. Thus, considerable effort is being directed at life prediction methodologies and reliability assessment within industry. Much of the industrial effort is based on building statistical databases and could benefit from serious analytical and experimental efforts to understand coating failure. This is precisely where the NIST Ceramic Coating Program has positioned itself. The program has also been recognized for several of its publications on thermal spray. The panel affirms the potentially large impact of new activities in nanoscale characterization such as ferroelectric switching and nanotribology. This is an emerging field in which metrology and quantification are currently limiting progress. NIST is well positioned in terms of expertise, infrastructure, and mission to develop measurement methods and standards in this field if given the needed resources. The Ceramics Division has the potential to have a great impact and is encouraged to think about whether it is able to devote more resources to optimize this impact. Finally, the panel recognizes the positive impact of the SRMs that division has developed and supports the division's current efforts to develop SRMs for x-ray powder diffraction. The panel believes strongly that the dissemination efforts of the Ceramics Division are having a maximum impact. The panel applauds the ongoing efforts to use the Web as an information dissemination tool as an alternative to heavy reliance on scientific publications. Indeed, the development of the online Ceramics WebBook is a major step in making the research output of the division useful and available to the entire U.S. user community. Similarly, the evaluated materials property data for ceramics constitute an effort with positive impact. It is the recommendation of the panel that projects to make data available on the Web be continued.

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 TABLE 6.2 Sources of Funding for the Ceramics Division (in millions of dollars), FY 1997 to FY 2000 Source of Funding Fiscal Year 1997 (actual) Fiscal Year 1998 (actual) Fiscal Year 1999 (actual) Fiscal Year 2000 (estimated) NIST-STRS, excluding Competence 9.3 9.3 9.4 8.7 Competence 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.1 ATP 0.9 0.7 0.7 0.5 Measurement Services (SRM production) 0.3 0.2 0.3 0.2 OA/NFG/CRADA 1.4 1.3 1.2 1.0 Other Reimbursable 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.2 Total 12.3 11.6 11.7 10.7 Full-time permanent staff (total)a 63 62 59 57 NOTE: Sources of funding are as described in the note accompanying Table 6.1. a The number of full-time permanent staff is as of January of that fiscal year. Division Resources Funding sources for the Ceramics Division are shown in Table 6.2. As of January 2000, staffing for the Ceramics Division included 57 full-time permanent positions, of which 49 were for technical professionals. There were also 10 nonpermanent and supplemental personnel, such as postdoctoral research associates and part-time workers. The division has been reducing its dependence on other agency (OA) funding. However, the fiscal year 2000 Scientific and Technical Research and Services (STRS) funding necessitates an increase in OA funding to maintain current programs. The division is committed to increasing this OA funding while keeping its current program focus. The panel supports this approach to OA funding. The division does support some unique facilities such as those in the Synchrotron Radiation Characterization Program. Resources within the division appear to be sufficient to meet the needs of the program at present but will be strained if all of the new areas proposed by the division are pursued while the program continues work on characterizing materials using existing methods. The space available to the division is adequate for its needs. Construction of the new Advanced Measurement Laboratory (AML) will make high-quality space available to the division. Finally, the panel commends the Ceramics Division staff for their high-quality work and the division chief, in particular, for his skilled guidance of ceramic programs and responsiveness to the changing needs of the nation in the field of ceramic materials. Materials Reliability Division Division Mission According to division documentation, the mission of the Materials Reliability Division is to develop measurement technologies that enable the producers and users of materials to improve the quality and reliability of their products. The mission is sufficiently focused to encourage well-defined projects with, for the most part, well-defined goals. The programs of this division comply with NIST's mission to promote economic growth

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 by working closely with industry. The areas chosen for research complement other national efforts appropriately and address nationally important sectors of the measurement and standards arena. Each group in the division has ties to appropriate industries. Technical Merit and Appropriateness of Work The Materials Reliability Division underwent substantial changes in fiscal year 1999. Funding reductions forced a significant reduction of staff in June 1999. Furthermore, the focus of the division has been shifting to electronic materials research. Staff members have been working to apply their expertise to new types of materials and to problems on a significantly different size scale. The division has shaped existing projects to maximize the capability of its limited staff. The panel has concluded that the technical merit of the Materials Reliability Division is consistently high. The existing programs address the critical need of industry for mechanical testing of microelectronic structures, infrared (IR) microscopy, x-ray diffraction, and ultrasonic characterization of materials. Plans are well coordinated, and the results of the programs are equal to or better than the results of the best national laboratories, academia, or industrial laboratories. However, stronger focus is needed on applying the results of all of the research programs into the area of predictive modeling to help industry reduce the cycle time to new products. The division has focused its work on three major themes: microstructure sensing, process sensing and modeling, and microscale measurements. Efforts in microstructure sensing focus on the application of ultrasonic measurements to characterize the internal geometry of materials. This includes characterizing defects, microstructures, and lattice distortions. Although these projects are still directed primarily at the metalworking industry and focus on characterization of metal and alloy microstructure, the division increasingly is directing them to applications for the electronics industry. For example, measurement and modeling of elastic properties is being applied to diverse systems, including metals, alloys, composites, ceramics, and high-critical-temperature (Tc) superconductors. The division has developed ultrasonic methods for measuring the elastic properties of thin films on silicon substrates, has extended the use of resonance ultrasound spectroscopy to measurements of crystals with trigonal symmetry, and is developing diffuse field methods to measuring internal friction in structural materials. These model-based measurements enable industry to replace microscopy with nondestructive methods for the microstructural characterizations needed to ensure the quality of advanced electronics and structural materials. The process sensing and modeling effort includes both basic research and the development and production of SRMs. Weld-process-sensing efforts include the development of both sensors and models for understanding welding processes. A NIST-developed intelligent robotic arc-welding cell (developed in a collaboration between the division and the NIST Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory) is being used to test and demonstrate interface and data exchange standards under development by the American Welding Society for robotic welding cells. This welding cell is integrated into an intranet to demonstrate remote collaboration, programming, and control. Digital image correlation is being developed for achieving full-field strain measurements of aluminum alloy test specimens. These data will eventually be used to improve finite-element simulation of forming operations. The eventual goal is to better understand these operations, which would allow reducing or eliminating the costly need to redesign and rework the forming dies used in aluminum-forming operations so as to achieve the tolerances needed in the automotive industry. In the SRM branch of this effort, the division procures, characterizes, and certifies ferrite reference materials (RMs) 8480 and 8481. Primary calibration of the instruments used to measure the ferrite content in stainless steel welds is based on coating thickness

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 pleasure in being allowed to do so. The division chief and her management team continue to carefully monitor the list of active projects and to set priorities based on the skills and resources of the division. Retention is an issue taken very seriously by the management team. With few monetary incentives at their disposal to retain staff, they focus on work-life flexibility, support resources, and freedom from bureaucracy. Retention efforts have been highly successful to date. Still, there are issues. When someone with a critical skill leaves, the management team seriously considers whether to try to replace such a world-class expert. In several cases, an area of study has been dropped following the death or retirement of the key investigator. This illustrates just how close the Metallurgy Division is to critical mass. There are clearly funding issues that affect the division's operations as well. If inflation is taken into account, internal funding has declined from year to year. Mandated cost-of-living adjustments and benefit increases have not been accompanied by increases in appropriations. The division has been successful thus far in finding OA and industrial funding consistent with its mission and scientific focus areas. Such funding is a validation of the timeliness and aptness of the division 's work but could become a distraction if the ratio of internal to external funding decreases. Capital expenditures have been tightly monitored for several years and have declined to a level that affects the ability of the division to maintain world-class facilities. In 1999, the division did obtain some critical equipment for metal forming, but in the area of electronic materials, it has been forced by lack of funds to develop collaborations with the University of Maryland to gain access to critical equipment. Although these collaborations themselves are positive, the need to borrow equipment for key experiments may in the long run slow the division's progress. The laboratory transmission electron microscope, which is used to support the entire MSEL, is in dire need of replacement, but no funds are available in 2000. Funding constraints preclude the purchase not only of large equipment but also of many small enabling items for laboratories. MAJOR OBSERVATIONS The panel presents the following major observations: MSEL continues to undertake programs that are well suited to the mission of NIST and have extremely strong technical merit. MSEL expends considerable effort in determining industry needs for materials measurements and standards. MSEL should give particular attention to developing industrial ties at the appropriate technical and managerial levels that will allow it to anticipate future needs for measurements and standards. The panel is pleased with the high priority MSEL places on releasing its results to the public domain—staff clearly understand that their results must reach customers to be of worth. The new Recommended Practice Guides should be an effective and highly practical tool for disseminating MSEL results. Metrics for industrial impact need further development. More use could be made of information on the hits to MSEL's Web pages. Flat budgets and mandated salary increases have left the laboratory very tightly staffed, with no backup available for some critical functions. Better integration of the Boulder and Gaithersburg staff is important, and efforts here should be strengthened. Boulder Building 2 needs significant repair and renovation so that it can provide an appropriate environment for the microelectronics measurements performed there.

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 REVIEW OF THE NIST CENTER FOR NEUTRON RESEARCH This annual assessment of the activities of the NIST Center for Neutron Research of the MSEL is based on a meeting of the Subpanel for the NIST Center for Neutron Research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology on February 24-25, 2000, and on the 1999 annual report of the NIST Center for Neutron Research.5 Members of the subpanel included Albert Narath, Sandia National Laboratories (retired), Chair; Zachary Fisk, Florida State University; Sol M. Gruner, Cornell University; John B. Higgins, Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.; Eric W. Kaler, University of Delaware; Allan H. MacDonald, Indiana University; and David C. Rorer, Brookhaven National Laboratory. Mission According to NCNR documentation, the mission of the NCNR is to operate the NIST research reactor cost-effectively while assuring the safety of the staff and general public; to develop neutron measurement techniques, to develop new applications for these techniques, and to apply them to problems of national interest; and to operate the research facilities of the NCNR as a national facility. The vision of the NCNR is to ensure the availability of neutron measurement capabilities to meet the mission needs of NIST and the needs of U.S. researchers from industry, university, and other government agencies. It is the considered judgment of the subpanel that the NCNR continues to be an essential component of the national measurement infrastructure. In addition to providing exemplary direct support to the internal programs of the NIST Measurement and Standards Laboratories, it supports a large and diverse national user community. The relative value of the NCNR as a national facility increased greatly in the past year as a result of the Department of Energy's decision to permanently shut down the Brookhaven high flux beam reactor (HFBR). Even before the HFBR shutdown, the domestic neutron scattering resources available to U.S. researchers were marginal at best in comparison with the resources available in Europe and Japan. With the HFBR loss, the importance of NCNR has become critical. Steps are being taken at NCNR to help offset this loss; one such step is additions to the triple-axis capability. The innovative measurement technologies pioneered at NCNR also strongly influence developments at other national facilities. It is evident from these considerations that NCNR contributes substantially to the NIST mission. Technical Merit and Appropriateness of Work Since the previous assessment NCNR has continued its traditionally impressive record of success in research and measurement capabilities. This success is in large measure attributable to management's effectiveness in balancing two often-conflicting imperatives: (1) meeting the needs of current users in an efficient and cost-effective manner and (2) developing facility enhancements that will provide future users with cutting-edge capabilities. The unique characteristics of the cold neutron source and the outstanding performance of the neutron scattering instrumentation attest to the excellence of past investment decisions. The initial performance of new instruments that have come on line during the past year provides confidence that this pattern will continue. At the same time, the number of significant scien 5   U.S. Department of Commerce, Technology Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST Center for Neutron Research: 1999 Programs and Accomplishments, NISTIR 6437, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Md., January 2000.

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 tific and technological accomplishments at this facility continues to be impressive, indicating that current users are well served by NCNR staff and instruments. Reactor and Research Facility Operations NCNR staff and management are to be commended for continuing to maintain a remarkably high availability for the reactor and the cold neutron source. The reactor operated for 268 days during calendar year 1999, 94 percent of the maximum possible operating time. The cold source had six unplanned shutdowns during the calendar year, resulting in approximately 1 day of lost operation time. For a facility of this complexity, these are truly outstanding numbers. While this operating record is enviable, safety always comes first at NCNR. Management has demonstrated that it will not hesitate to shut down the reactor in order to correct operational problems long before they can impact safety. This was confirmed as recently as January 2000, when an unscheduled extended shutdown was ordered to correct a mechanical problem with a fuel-handling tool, although the problem was not impacting reactor safety. Graphitar bearings in the fuel-handling tools were replaced with redesigned bearings to eliminate binding caused by radiation-induced swelling. At the time of this writing, the task was well on its way to completion several weeks ahead of schedule. The subpanel applauds management 's aggressive, uncompromising approach to corrective maintenance and its demonstrated willingness to sacrifice the operating schedule whenever necessary to keep the reactor in excellent operating condition. Although collective radiation dose data were not yet available for the entire calendar year, data through August 1999 appeared to be closely tracking collective dose data from prior years. The annual total collective radiation dose for facility personnel showed a small but steady increase from 1996 to 1998, rising from 6.659 to 7.951 rem. This increase in collective dose is almost entirely the result of the growing number of personnel using the facility each year, with an increasing number of individuals being exposed to the same small doses of radiation. However, these radiation doses are still extremely low (average annual dose <13 mrem), and there is no concern for the health and safety of these personnel. The facility has also maintained an excellent industrial safety record, with no lost workday injuries over the past 3 years. The subpanel was pleased to learn that NIST has embarked on a program of installing automatic fire suppression systems in its buildings, where appropriate. NIST is also engaged in an extensive series of improvements to fire detection and alarm systems, which will allow more effective response by the fire-fighting staff in the event of an emergency. While the office/laboratory part of the reactor building will be included in the plans for fire suppression, the high bay areas in the confinement building and guide hall will not. In these last two areas, the emphasis, quite appropriately, will continue to be on fire prevention and early detection (aided by the new alarm system). Furthermore, the reactor staff and the fire department are trained in proper responses to fire in these and other areas. The subpanel urges that a high priority be given to completing the planned upgrades. Management is also embarking on a long-term program to replace outmoded reactor control and monitoring instrumentation. New area radiation monitors were recently acquired, and several chart recorders were replaced by paperless data acquisition systems with liquid crystal displays (LCDS). Replacement of the nuclear instrumentation, which is becoming difficult to maintain, is planned. Experience at other reactors has shown that replacement of this type of instrumentation quickly pays for itself through reduced maintenance and greatly improved reliability of operation. This upgrade also provides

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 an opportunity to incorporate enhancements in human factors engineering into the control room displays and controls. A shutdown is planned in the near future to install a new cooling tower and to replace the cold source with a new design that will improve the cold neutron flux by a factor of 2. These projects are further evidence of management's commitment to continuous improvement of the facility and its unrelenting pursuit of excellence. To complete the necessary exterior work before the onset of winter, work would have to be under way by summer 2000. It was not clear at the time of this assessment whether preparations would be completed in time to meet this schedule. If not, the shutdown would have to be delayed until spring 2001. Unfortunately, the shutdown period would then coincide with the scheduled upgrade of the Oak Ridge high-flux-isotope reactor (HFIR) facility, the only other U.S. steady-state neutron source. To ensure the long-term availability of the facility, the reactor must be relicensed in 2004. This will require submission of a relicensing application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC), an environmental impact statement, a new accident analysis, revised technical specifications, and an operator requalification plan. Reactor staff seem particularly well positioned to carry this out with the formation of a new relicensing project group headed by the former director of nonpower reactors and decommissioning at the USNRC. The opportunity for public intervention in the licensing proceedings means that the reactor will be entering an extraordinarily sensitive period with respect to public relations. It is not too early for NIST to develop a plan for informing the public and soliciting public input on potential relicensing issues. Instrumentation Development Progress during the year in bringing next-generation instruments on line has been steady, although slower in some cases than had initially been hoped for. The high-flux backscattering spectrometer (HFBS) has become fully operational. The response to the first call for proposals to use this instrument was outstanding, and initial user experiments have already demonstrated the superior performance of the instrument. The disk chopper TOF spectrometer is expected to become available to users on a limited basis later this year. Other instruments are following closely. The improved performance of these instruments is being achieved at the price of greater complexity in design, construction, and operation. Based on the expectation that the resources needed to use these instruments optimally will be available, the subpanel strongly supports the high priority that NCNR has assigned to instrument development as a way to maintain its cutting-edge capabilities. The subpanel observed previously that considerably more use could be made of the instruments with large user bases if there were enhancements to the available software. This is especially critical for the small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) and reflectivity machines because of their substantial outside use. The need for this improvement is also noted in the recent user survey. The subpanel is pleased that substantial improvements were made in this area, and it encourages continuation and expansion of this activity. Neutron Condensed-Matter Science As in the past, the subpanel observed a very high level of competence, dedication, and enthusiasm among the in-house technical staff and visiting users. It comes as no surprise therefore that the quality of the science continues to be first rate.

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 Chemical Physics. Researchers in NCNR's Chemical Physics Program both provide and use neutron scattering techniques for the study of atomic and molecular excitations in materials. In the past year these researchers obtained the first spectrum from the newly developed disc chopper spectrometer and carried out the first user experiments on the HFBS. The subpanel is pleased to see these new capabilities online. The first phase of the new detector bank for the filter analyzer neutron spectrometer is now being installed. A particularly significant accomplishment is the ability to access dynamical timescales as short as 10−7 second. The HFBS has been used to study the dynamics of confined systems, such as hydrogen diffusion in zeolite, the tunneling of methyl iodide in silica xerogel, the absorption of alkanes on grafoil, and the freeze-thaw characteristics of Portland cement. The broad user base includes scientists from Pennsylvania State University; University of California, Berkeley; University of Minnesota; University of Chicago; Princeton; Technische Universitaet Muenchen; DuPont; and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Magnetism and Superconductivity. The NCNR Condensed Matter Program is dominated by studies of the magnetic properties of new materials. Recent work includes studies of the geometrically frustrated spinel magnet ZnCr2O4. Inelastic scattering experiments using spin-polarized inelastic neutron scattering (SPINS) in this system have uncovered an unexpected first-order phase transition into an ordered state with a finite-energy localized-spin excitation of unknown origin. This exciting work, exploring new ground in the field of quantum magnetism, takes full advantage of the two-dimensional position-sensitive detector of SPINS. Another important scientific achievement is the careful study of spin density-wave order in the doped high-temperature superconductor La2CuO4+y, which was the Ph.D. thesis work of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology student. This work obtained surprising and important new information about the interplay between stripe order and superconductivity in the cuprates. The addition of refractive optics to the 30-m SANS has allowed increased resolution which, in turn has enabled, for example, the observation of much lower applied magnetic fields of the vortex lattice in the superconductor ErNi2B2C. Crystallography and Diffraction Applications. The Crystallography and Diffraction Applications Program develops and maintains the BT-1 powder diffractometer and the BT-8 double-axis diffractometer for the structural characterization of polycrystal and single-crystal materials. The BT-1 high-resolution powder instrument continues to be one of the high-use instruments at NCNR: 109 requests for instrument use in 1999 resulted in the collection of 1100 data sets on 300 different samples. With the permanent closing of the HFBR at Brookhaven National Laboratory, requests for instrument time on BT-1 will likely increase. To facilitate more efficient utilization, the crystallography team has created a Web page that provides many resources for BT-1 users. Potential users can access detailed information about the instrument configuration and input their sample compositions to check for absorption problems, gamma-ray production, and residual radioactivity after the experiment. Real-time remote data access and links to downloadable analysis software enhance the user experience. The BT-8 double-axis diffractometer is utilized by industrial, government, and academic groups to obtain stress and texture information on a variety of industrial and infrastructure materials from railroad rails to space station aluminum. Work has continued on extracting single-crystal elastic constants from powder materials and is being directed at performing these measurements at high pressure. Determining the pressure dependence of elastic constants in polycrystalline materials may improve the processing of seismic data for geophysical prospecting, weapons monitoring, and planetary studies. The BT-8 instrument is also used to collect neutron diffraction data from single crystals, and work has been initiated to develop a new imaging plate neutron detector for this application.

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 NIST Crystallographic Data Center activities previously supervised by NCNR have been transferred to the Ceramics Division of MSEL. However, NCNR staff continue to provide scientific support for this activity. Surface and Interfacial Science. Researchers in the Surface and Interfacial Science Program carry out high-quality research while providing state-of-the-art reflectivity instruments for a large user community. NCNR's instruments are capable of measuring exceptionally low reflectivities and thus provide staff and users with nearly unique experimental capabilities. Staff continue to apply neutron reflectivity techniques to a variety of hard and soft interfaces, with applications ranging from magnetism to polymer science to biology. The biological investigations have allowed a unique determination of biomimetic membrane profiles by neutron reflectivity. This has been possible because of both the quality of the measured reflectivities and the development of an exact solution to the scattering “phase problem” under appropriate experimental circumstances. This work sets the stage for further studies of the location and orientation of proteins at surfaces and the effect of various surface modifications on protein conformation and, ultimately, function. This would be even more true if a way could be found to perform the measurement on a bilayer that does not have a monolayer rigidly anchored to a surface. Work on polymer interfaces includes the study of polymer diffusion in thin films. In this area there is substantial scientific overlap with work in the Macromolecular and Microstructure Science Program. Studies of magnetic systems involve probing interlayer coupling in magnetic systems, domain structures, and the giant magnetoresistance effect. Macromolecular and Microstructure Science. Researchers in the Macromolecular and Microstructure Science Program very successfully meet their goals of developing methods and supporting a large and vigorous user community in this area. The methods of SANS and reflectivity relate submicron structure to bulk properties and provide key data for a broad range of materials. The staff's research ranges from polymers to surfactant science and phase behavior and is of uniformly high quality. The 30-m SANS instruments at the NCNR are also the workhorses of the U.S. scattering community. The range of sample environments that can be accessed by users is impressive, and the proposed upgrade of a shear cell to allow simultaneous rheological and scattering measurements will be very useful. Commissioning of the neutron spin echo (NSE) instrument this year and the upcoming availability of the ultrasmall-angle neutron scattering instrument will add more capabilities and allow further scientific advances. In particular, the NSE instrument and upgrades in the time slicing features of the SANS instruments will enable probes of dynamic motions over a range of timescales and momentum transfers (Q). Life Sciences NCNR is working to increase its activities in the life sciences. A key element for the success of this thrust is the development of a new instrument oriented toward reflection and diffraction studies of biomembranes. NCNR has been approached by a collection of biophysicists from several institutions across the United States who wish to use such capability and who have submitted a proposal with NCNR to NIH for the construction and operation of this instrument. A decision from NIH on this proposal is imminent. The subpanel supports this approach to developing neutron activity in the life sciences and firmly believes that neutron research in the life sciences represents a direction that must be developed in the future. However, NCNR has few people who are deeply embedded in the biological community. The latter community has a very different research culture from the physicist-oriented condensed matter and materials communities with which NCNR is familiar. Past experience at synchrotron facilities has

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 shown that the most effective way to culture biological activity is to collaborate with members of this community. Partners on the NIH proposal include a good cross section of some of the best biophysicists in the United States who are active in neutron studies of biomembranes, so this would be an ideal mechanism for development of a biological program. The subpanel believes strongly that this opportunity for collaboration should not be allowed to pass, and if the current proposal fails, alternative funding should be sought immediately. If the proposal is not funded, the NCNR plans to resubmit it as an NIH Research Resource grant. The subpanel suggests that a faster approach might be for NIST management to provide start-up funds for the instrument in order to get biological activities going as quickly as possible, with a Research Resource proposal as a second choice or as a source of operating funds. User Community The subpanel reviewed the results of the 1999 Users' Group survey in detail. This user-satisfaction survey was initiated in December 1998, and the final report is dated October 15, 1999. The subpanel had access to the report and also spoke by telephone with the head of the Users' Group, who directed the survey. Users were asked to rate the NCNR in 12 categories on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent). The fact that only about 15 percent of users responded points to a high degree of satisfaction. Those who did respond provided generally favorable ratings. The highest rating (4.7) was given to NCNR technical staff. The instrument hardware rating averaged 4.2, while somewhat weaker ratings were given to instrument software (3.7) and data storage and analysis (3.6). The lowest rating (3.2) was given to travel and housing expenses. According to the head of the Users' Group, NCNR has addressed the shortcomings and made notable progress, excepting only the travel and housing issue, for which no ready answer is at hand. Especially noteworthy are improvements in on-site data storage and analysis support. A major concern of the user community relates to the timing of the pending reactor shutdown for upgrade of the cold source and cooling towers. The community is concerned that the shutdown might coincide with a planned shutdown at the Oak Ridge HFIR. Users have been informed that NCNR management is strongly committed to a summer 2000 start date, which would avoid an overlap with the Oak Ridge shutdown, but it cannot guarantee that this will be possible. The subpanel notes with some disappointment that the recent attempt to reduce the burden on external reviewers by allowing program proposals for multiyear user projects, as suggested in the previous report, has already been judged ineffective and has therefore been discontinued. It is unclear whether the trial period was of sufficient length to fully evaluate this approach. Impact of Programs In fiscal year 1999, the NCNR user community continued to grow. The center supported nearly 1700 research participants who either worked at NCNR or had their name on a paper based on work done at NCNR. These participants came from 23 NIST divisions and offices, 34 U.S. government laboratories, 55 U.S. industrial laboratories, and 105 U.S. universities. Approximately 90 percent of available instrument-days involve outside users, in half of the cases involving direct collaborations on specific experiments. A number of organizations, among them industrial firms, support long-term projects at NCNR as members of participating research teams. Research at NCNR covers a broad spectrum of topics, which are generally at the forefront of current scientific and technological interests. The impact of NCNR is reflected in the more than 350 papers accepted or published in archival journals during fiscal year 1999.

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 During last year's review the subpanel was provided information on an extensive citation analysis of peer-reviewed papers, which showed the NCNR impact to be substantially above average for the neutron science field taken as a whole. This year's citation analysis had not been completed at the time of the subpanel's review. The subpanel was assured that the analysis would attempt to arrive at a meaningful comparison of the relative impact of different NCNR research fields, as suggested by the subpanel in its previous report. The NCNR also hosted a summer school in 1999 on the methods and applications of neutron spectroscopy that was attended by 37 individuals, including 26 graduate students. This workshop, the fifth in what has become an annual event, is judged by the subpanel to be an excellent example of an effective outreach effort. Not only does it add value by helping train the next generation of scientists in the field, but it can also serve the important purpose of broadening the future NCNR user base. NCNR Resources Funding sources for Neutron Research are shown in Table 6.6. The NCNR staffing currently includes 85 full-time permanent positions, of which 78 are for technical professionals. There are also 18 nonpermanent and supplemental personnel, such as postdoctoral fellows and part-time workers. The subpanel again commends NCNR management and staff for their ability to develop instrumental capabilities and science programs within very constrained resources. NCNR management relies on disciplined, conservative approaches to fiscal management and resists excessive dependence on temporary funding from other government agencies or private institutions. This safeguards it against the instabilities that can result from more aggressive and riskier fiscal management styles. NIST senior management is aware of the critical role that NCNR has gained as a national facility and, given the strong support expressed by NIST leadership, the subpanel expects that solutions to financial shortfalls would be found should circumstances ever necessitate it. The NCNR is the home of the Center for High-Resolution Neutron Scattering (CHRNS), which has been funded by the National Science Foundation for the past 5 years. Renewal of this grant is pending. The subpanel believes that the expansion of user activity that this grant would enable is of critical TABLE 6.6 Sources of Funding for the NIST Center for Neutron Research (in millions of dollars), FY 1997 to FY 2000 Source of Funding Fiscal Year 1997 (actual) Fiscal Year 1998 (actual) Fiscal Year 1999 (actual) Fiscal Year 2000 (estimated) NIST-STRS, excluding Competence 13.7 14.8 14.5 15.0 Competence 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.2 ATP 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.2 OA/NFG/CRADA 1.5 1.9 1.6 1.8 Other Reimbursable 0.2 0.1 0.2 0.2 Total 15.7 17.2 16.8 17.5 Full-time permanent staff (total)a 78 84 85 85 NOTE: Sources of funding are as described in the note accompanying Table 6.1. Totals for the reactor include only normal operation costs. Fuel cycle and upgrade costs, totaling approximately $5.7 million per year, are excluded. a The number of full-time permanent staff is as of January of that fiscal year.

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 importance to the user community. However, the subpanel also reiterates its conviction that support from other agencies (e.g., for the CHRNS) should in no way diminish NIST's baseline level of support for the NCNR. The subpanel previously noted that user demand for reflectivity instruments continues to be high, and this level of usage continues to be of concern. The reflectivity effort would be enhanced by the addition of the proposed dedicated biolayer reflectometer-diffractometer currently under consideration for funding by NIH. The most valuable resource of the NCNR is obviously its high-quality staff. The scientific discoveries, technical achievements, and new measurement and user capabilities offered at the facility are all enabled by the talent and dedication of its staff. Several issues relating to staffing merit attention here. The high degree of excellence achieved in NCNR reactor operations is a direct function of the experience, competence, and attitude of the operations staff. Since so many are long-term employees, succession planning and hiring take on greater importance with each passing year as more of the staff approach retirement eligibility. Most new hires come from the nuclear Navy and are used to fill positions at the bottom of the reactor operations organizational chart. The low turnover rate of staff means that there is a fairly large pool of experienced personnel who can readily step in and fill the shoes of the older workers now approaching retirement. This helps provide a stable organization with a culture of safety in reactor operations. The most challenging task in a few years will be to ensure that the top management positions at NCNR are filled with persons who have not only the broad-based competence but also the wisdom and vision of the present incumbents. The subpanel has, in the past, stressed the importance of succession planning and management training for NCNR as a whole. It is apparent that NCNR leadership shares this view and is taking steps to address these issues. The eventual successor to the NCNR director is an especially important issue. In the nearer term, the center may have to deal with the loss of experienced technical staff as professional opportunities open up at some of the Department of Energy's expansion sites, such as the spallation neutron source (SNS) at Oak Ridge. Previous reports from the subpanel have commented on the relatively modest level of theoretical science activity at NCNR. Although some steps have been taken to strengthen the effort in theory, the subpanel believes that the NCNR science program would benefit from greater interactions with theorists, especially in the condensed matter and complex fluid areas. Additional contacts would enlarge the community of theoretical subject matter experts who could assist in creatively exploring the new scientific opportunities being opened up by instrumental advances at NCNR. As an example of such an outreach mechanism, the subpanel applauds the effort under way by the condensed matter staff to establish an effective visiting program for theorists. Similar staff-initiated steps should be pursued by other parts of the science program. Good progress continues on facility improvements. Improvements in sound attenuation have been completed in the guide hall. Preparations are under way for the upcoming reactor shutdown, during which the cooling tower, control rods, heavy water, and radiation-monitoring system will be replaced. The new cold source, designed to provide a factor-of-2 increase in flux, will also be installed at that time. Spent-fuel shipments during the year have cleared storage space for at least 5 years of 20-MW operation.

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 Major Observations of the Subpanel The subpanel presents the following major observations: The NCNR continues to live up to its well-deserved reputation as a world-class neutron science facility. Its demonstrated ability to balance often-conflicting interests of current and future users is exemplary. Its role as a major U.S. scientific user facility has grown substantially in importance during the past year as a result of the permanent shutdown of the HFBR reactor at Brookhaven. The cost-effective manner in which NCNR makes its considerable scientific achievements is noteworthy. However, the tight fiscal management of NCNR necessitated by constrained budgets provides little contingency flexibility. Any decreases in budget would do serious damage to the U.S. neutron science community, given that its dependence on the NCNR stands at an all-time high. The reactor and the cold source have continued to operate at impressive levels of availability. Operational safety matters are receiving strong management attention and support. The decision to extend the scheduled January 2000 shutdown in order to replace bearings in an unexpectedly “sticky” fuel-transfer tool (a non-safety-critical component) attests to a commendable degree of conservatism in decisions concerning reactor operations. Efforts to prepare for the 2004 USNRC license renewal application are on course. The effort has been strengthened significantly with the creation of a relicensing project group headed by the former director of nonpower reactors and decommissioning at the USNRC. The relicensing process gives significant opportunities for public comment. NCNR management should therefore safeguard the openness of its communication channels with the public. Progress during the year in bringing next-generation instruments on line has been steady, although slower in some cases than initially hoped for. The subpanel strongly supports the high priority that NCNR has assigned to instrument development as a way to maintain its capabilities at the cutting edge. The timing of the planned reactor shutdown to connect the new cooling tower and install the new cold neutron source has become a valid concern for the NCNR user community. If work cannot begin before spring 2001, the shutdown would coincide with the scheduled upgrade of the Oak Ridge HFIR facility. This would leave the United States with no operational steady-state neutron sources. Progress toward the development of a neutron science activity in the life sciences is clearly visible. Extensive scientific networking with the biological community will be necessary for NCNR to successfully establish a presence in this area. The subpanel remains supportive of this effort. The NCNR science program would benefit from additional outreach to talented theorists who could stimulate the identification of future scientific opportunities associated with emerging instrumental capabilities at NCNR. Plans for orderly transitions in senior management over the next several years remain on track. NCNR management needs to consider that the loss of experienced technical staff to Department of Energy sites where new or upgraded neutron science facilities are under construction, such as the SNS at Oak Ridge, is a potential difficulty.

OCR for page 151
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY MEASUREMENT AND STANDARDS LABORATORIES: Fiscal Year 2000 This page in the original is blank.