U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker visited the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md., today, as part of her nationwide listening tour. The campus hosts approximately 2,700 NIST staff members, as well as visiting researchers, post-doctorate fellows and undergraduate students.
The Secretary met with NIST senior executives to discuss Commerce priorities and took a tour of a laboratory focused on the most effective ways to collect and accurately analyze small or trace amounts of contraband such as drugs or explosives. The NIST Trace Contraband Detection Program supports the deployment and effective use of detection devices throughout the United States. NIST scientists use their existing expertise in particle analysis, analytical chemistry and chemical microscopy to study the explosives collection and detection process in detail and to help field methods.
Secretary Pritzker saw demonstrations of some NIST-developed devices that could speed the processing of airline passengers while accurately assessing them for trace contraband. A shoe-sampler uses air jets to blow samples off of shoes still on the wearer’s feet, while another device checks IDs for samples transferred on fingertips. She also learned about the program making use of a 3-D printing machine to rapidly create new devices for improving detection methods. Through these efforts, NIST supports standards that ensure detectors in the field today work as expected and develops the specialized measurement expertise that will be needed for the next generation of explosive detection equipment.
Following her lab visit, Secretary Pritzker spoke before a full auditorium of NIST staff about the value the Institute provides the economy through its close work with the public sector. She remarked that NIST provides the fuel for American innovation and competitiveness through its groundbreaking research, standards development, and efforts to usher cutting-edge technology into the marketplace.
Secretary Pritzker also called attention to NIST’s work in manufacturing through research programs and the Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office, explaining that DOC will continue to play a strong role in manufacturing, alongside the White House. She also talked about her recent visit to Albany, where she was glad to see NIST in action helping to develop industry standards for 3D integrated circuits, providing Standard Reference Materials to companies, helping to fund a nanoelectronics research center, and engaging in cooperative R&D agreements with companies such as IBM, Motorola, Texas Instruments, and Intel.