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4 EEEL Responses to Concerns from the 2007 Assessment The following items of concern were noted in the 2007 report of the Panel on Electronics and Electrical Engineering.1 The sections below present the responses of the Electronics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory to these concerns. OPTOELECTRONICS DIVISION Concerns About Funding The Optoelectronics Division noted that its current level of non-NIST external funding (approximately 20 percent) seems to work well to maintain the scientific excellence of its work. The division suggested that although the burden of obtaining external funding is non-negligible, the external funds provide a very useful, ongoing “reality check” on programs and provide one measure of a project’s importance. Biophotonics Initiative NIST agrees with the panel’s conclusion that biophotonics is a very important and rapidly growing industry with strong potential impact on medical applications and the national priority of health care. In 2007, three NIST operating units summarized their assessment of biophotonics for the panel, but the specific current plans for action in this field by the Optoelectronics Division remain unclear to the panel. It appears that NIST needs an exploratory program to understand the field and to see where it can be of the most help. Two important areas where NIST can help immediately are the toxicity of carbon nanotubes and power standards for laser surgery instruments. SEMICONDUCTOR ELECTRONICS DIVISION System-on-a-Chip Project Responding to the panel’s suggestion, in 2007 the EEEL phased out the System- on-a-Chip project. Staff and funding were moved to other projects. Spintronic Devices In 2007 the panel suggested that the EEEL look at how the Semiconductor Electronics Division and the Electromagnetics Division might be able to interact on spintronic devices. The Semiconductor Division and the Electromagnetics Division 1 National Research Council, An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Electronics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory: Fiscal Year 2007. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2007. 28
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combined on an Innovations in Measurement Science proposal in 2007 to work on spintronics, which was funded in 2008. The groups are putting the equipment in place to start making measurements. Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology There remains a concern about how the Semiconductor Electronics Division can best make use of the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST), a recently established center at NIST whose mission focuses on providing nanofabrication and nanotechnology resources to NIST and to the outside community, as well as performing targeted research in nanoscience and nanotechnology (research in these areas is also performed in other NIST laboratories). The extent to which the Semiconductor Electronics Division has adequate access to the CNST resources remains unclear to the panel. QUANTUM ELECTRICAL METROLOGY DIVISION Boulder and Gaithersburg Facilities and Synergy The EEEL reported that the work has been reduced to fewer, strongly focused and highly synergistic efforts in Boulder; work on single-electron transistors and on magnetic materials was put on hold. There is strong collaboration between the Boulder and Gaithersburg groups in the area of dc-ac JVS. Other projects (graphene and calculable capacitor) have found NIST collaborators outside of the division. Sustainability The EEEL reported to the present panel that the ratio of permanent to associate staff is further declining. The new focus on Smart Grid offers opportunities for Gaithersburg to establish a new core effort of national interest and, therefore, also for more outside or new funding. Management and Use of Fabrication Facilities The position of a clean-room manager for the current fabrication facility has been implemented but is currently vacant. The relationship with the CNST is still evolving. A unified approach toward using the various clean-room facilities at NIST needs to be established in order to use resources efficiently. ELECTROMAGNETICS DIVISION Gradual Degradation of Facilities and Infrastructure at NIST Boulder In order for the Electromagnetics Division to perform its stated missions, some areas require updating. For example, electronic communications, heating and cooling, 29
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lighting, and space utilization all need to be improved to accommodate the staff, experiments, and calibration services. The new buildings being constructed are expected to improve the conditions noted in both 2007 and 2009. The Building 1 Extension (B1E) is an example of this construction. Cost and Burden of Providing Calibration Services The Fundamental Guided Wave Metrology group is to be commended for easing out the repetitive tasks of calibrating industrial-type equipment and limiting its services to upper-level standards laboratories. The group should continue the transfer of repetitive tasks to other standards laboratories to make limited EEEL resources available for unique NIST responsibilities already identified or still below the horizon. Planning Process At the start of a political transition year in the U.S. government, despite the best efforts of the (acting) leadership of the Electromagnetics Division, project prioritization and budgeting remain a bit sketchy. 30