Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New NIST Nano-Ruler Sets Some Very Small Marks

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has issued a new ruler, and even for an organization that routinely deals in superlatives, it sets some records.

Designed to be the most accurate commercially available “meter stick” for the nano world, the new measuring tool—a calibration standard for X-ray diffraction—boasts uncertainties below a femtometer. That’s 0.000 000 000 000 001 meter, or roughly the size of a neutron.

The new ruler is in the form of a thin, multilayer silicon chip 25 millimeters square (just under an inch). Each one is individually measured and certified by NIST for the spacing and angles of the crystal planes of silicon atoms in the base crystal.

X-ray diffraction works by sending X-rays through a crystal—which could be anything from a wafer used to make microchips to a crystallized sample of an unknown protein—and observing the patterns made by the X-rays as they diffract from electrons in the crystal. The spacing, angles and intensity of the pattern’s lines tell a trained crystallographer the relative positions of the atoms in the crystal, as well as something about the quality of the crystal, the nature of the chemical bonds and more. It is one of the workhorse techniques of materials science and engineering. The precision version, high-resolution X-ray diffraction, can be used to determine the thickness, crystal structure, embedded strain and orientation of thin films used in advanced semiconductor devices and nanotechnologies.

Formally NIST Standard Reference Material (SRM) 2000, “Calibration Standard for High-Resolution X-Ray Diffraction,” the new ruler gives crystallographers an extremely well-known crystal sample for calibrating their precision instruments. It was made possible by the development of a unique parallel beam diffractometer at NIST that makes measurements traceable to international measurement standards and is believed to be the most accurate angle measuring device of its kind in the world. The NIST instrument can measure angles with an accuracy better than an arc second, 1/3600 of a degree. “Our accuracy is at about the angle made by the diameter of a quarter—if you’re looking at it from two miles away,” explains NIST materials scientist Donald Windover, “The precision is better, about the size of Washington’s nose.”

Because the crystal lattice values for SRM 2000—spacing, tilt, orientation—are traceable to SI units, the new material provides an absolute reference for high-precision calibrations. Details are available at

Standard Reference Materials are among the most widely distributed and used products from NIST. The agency prepares, analyzes and distributes more than a thousand different materials that are used throughout the world to check the accuracy of instruments and test procedures used in manufacturing, clinical chemistry, environmental monitoring, electronics, criminal forensics and dozens of other fields. For more information, see NIST’s SRM Web page at

Michael Baum | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus
20.10.2016 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>