R. Winn Hardin
GAITHERSBURG, Md. -- UV lithography, IR imagers and spectroscopy are just a few of the industries that could benefit from a consortium proposed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
The Optical Properties of Materials Consortium is a response to private sector and US Department of Defense requests for optical materials standards, instrumentation and calibration mechanisms, according to Raju Datla, the consortium spokesman and institute physicist.
"This is not an easy task," Datla said. "There is no one single contact for industry at [the institute]" who is knowledgeable about all optical properties, materials or disciplines being pursued at NIST.
Today companies looking for development of industry standards or new instrumentation contact the institute's Industrial Partnership Program office. That will stay the same, he said. However, in addition to notifying specific researchers of a request, the office also will contact Datla's group.
Although the institute cannot offer matching funds, it does have special knowledge, instruments and laboratories that would act as the government's ante into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement.
"The company would have a say into what needs to be investigated, what standards need to be produced and which materials are important," Datla said. "This way, it's not necessary for the company to set up a complete measurement laboratory to determine a specific optical property that they need."
Of benefit to all
The institute would make all findings, instrumentation, calibration and standards generally available, whether they were new specifications for CaF used in microchip manufacturing, reflectance bands for diffuser materials, or absorption bands for IR filters and detector materials.
Datla expects Raman spectroscopy to be another hot area. The pharmaceutical industry has expressed interest in Raman calibration, a technique used to meet US Food and Drug Administration requirements relating to online testing.
"For an optical designer to make good use of a new material, they need the index of refraction to the fourth decimal vs. wavelength and temperature. These measurements have nearly disappeared except for some work at the University of Arizona," said Paul Klocek, optics, design and technology manager with Texas Instruments of Dallas.