The Optical Thermometry and Spectral Methods Group maintains, improves, and disseminates the national scales for the spectroradiometric measurement of radiation sources and temperatures. This group is also engaged in basic research aimed at applying new techniques in quantum optics to revolutionize future radiometry standards.

The Optical Properties and Infrared Technology Group establishes and disseminates primary measurement scales for the transmittance and reflectance of materials in the infrared (IR) spectral region; studies optical properties of materials in the near-, mid-, and far-infrared spectral regions; provides blackbody calibrations; performs research and development work to achieve accurate, high-precision radiometric measurements at low and ambient thermal background environments; and develops and calibrates transfer standard radiometers to be used for on-site NIST-traceable measurements of missile defense sensor test chambers.

The Optical Sensor Group establishes the national measurement scale for the SI unit the candela and provides measurements of the absolute spectral responsivity of optical detectors in the spectral region from 200 nm through the IR using a high-accuracy absolute cryogenic radiometer.

The Laser Applications Group advances laser and synchrotron radiation technology for applications in optical radiation and measurements of optical properties of materials.

The Biophysics Group develops advanced spectroscopic and microscopic measurement methods, nano-optical probes, and imaging technologies and associated theoretical models to solve important science problems in biophysics and bionanotechnology.


The division has 35 permanent technical staff members and 6 permanent support staff members across its groups—the Optical Thermometry and Spectral Methods Group, the Optical Properties and Infrared Technology Group, the Optical Sensor Group, the Laser Applications Group, and the Biophysics Group.

Major Equipment, Facilities, Ancillary Support, and Resources

The facilities of the Optical Technology Division associated with maintaining national standards include the following:

  • The National Standard for Optical Power: the Primary Optical Watt Radiometer (POWR) provides the optical power standard to 0.01 percent;

  • The LBIR Facility maintains the NIST infrared radiometric standard for instruments that need to be calibrated in background environments that are 20 K and below;

  • SIRCUS (Spectral Irradiance and Radiance Responsivity Calibrations using Uniform Sources) is a tunable laser-based facility for the absolute calibration of optical instruments; the companion Traveling SIRCUS is used at external

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