NRC’s previous review.6 This institute was formally established with the University of Maryland and the National Security Agency (NSA) in the fall of 2006, modeled in part along the lines of JILA. The purpose of this partnership is to create an institute of the caliber that will attract top scientists and students into the field of coherent quantum phenomena. This cross-disciplinary effort combines atomic/molecular/optical physics, condensed-matter physics, and quantum information in a single institute to capitalize on the different strengths of these fields through interdisciplinary collaboration.

In 2007, the Joint Quantum Institute benefited from about $2 million of funding under the America COMPETES Act of 2007, helping to enhance the position of the United States in this emerging technology. New laboratories are being designed for NIST researchers, and several collaborative projects have been initiated. Two staff members taught a graduate course in quantum information at the University of Maryland, 25 Fellows have been appointed, and a new staff member was hired. An additional benefit of the institute will be the opportunity for NIST to share its expertise by the training of students through the graduate program at the University of Maryland, which will leverage the capabilities of the Laser Cooling and Trapping Group in the exploration of this new frontier. Quantum information has the potential to spur major innovations. Failure to develop leadership in this area could threaten U.S. competitiveness economically and scientifically and could undermine national security. This effort should receive continued support.

Atomic Spectroscopy

A second major project in the Atomic Physics Division, the Atomic Data Center, is the only center of its kind. Its mission is to critically compile fundamental constants and spectroscopic data for atoms from the far infrared to the x-ray spectral region. As a unique center, it sets the standard worldwide for these data. These results are disseminated on the NIST Physics Laboratory Web site to produce high-quality data for immediate scientific or technological needs. When such data do not exist for high-priority needs such as fusion energy, space astronomy, or microlithography, specific measurements or calculations are undertaken at the center to produce them. Improved measurements have also been initiated in support of fundamental constants. This database experiences more than 50,000 requests for data each month. An online collisional-radiative modeling system of hot plasmas was added in conjunction with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Quantum Processes and Metrology

A third major project in the division involves a leading-edge optical lithography effort. This work in the precision measurement of materials is unique and is much appreciated by a community of users such as Intel Corporation and ASML, a provider of lithography systems for the semiconductor industry. The division’s work also includes the most accurate diffraction measurement capability, work to make an absolute standard


National Research Council, 2005, An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Measurement and Standards Laboratories, Fiscal Years 2004-2005, Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

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