The National Institute of Standards and Technology, known between 1901 and 1988 as the National Bureau of Standards, is a measurement standards laboratory which is a non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce. The institute's mission is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve quality of life.
NIST employs about 2,900 scientists, engineers, technicians, and support and administrative personnel. About 1,800 NIST associates complement the staff. In addition, NIST partners with 1,400 manufacturing specialists and staff at nearly 350 affiliated centers around the country.
NIST's headquarters are in Gaithersburg, Maryland. It also has laboratories in Boulder, Colorado. NIST has four major programs through which it helps U.S. industry: the NIST Laboratories; the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a nationwide network of centers to assist small manufacturers; the Advanced Technology Program, a grant program where NIST and industry partners cost share the early-stage development of innovative but high-risk technologies; and the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award program, the nation's highest award for performance and business excellence.
NIST's Boulder laboratories are best known for NIST-F1, one of the world's two most accurate atomic clocks. (The other is in Paris, France). NIST-F1 serves as the source of the nation's official time. From its precise measurement of the natural resonance frequency of cesium—which is used to define the second —NIST broadcasts time signals via longwave radio station WWVB at Fort Collins, Colorado, and shortwave radio stations WWV and WWVH, located at Fort Collins, Colorado and Kekaha, Hawaii, respectively.
NIST manages some of the world’s most specialized measurement facilities—including a cost effective NIST Center for Neutron Research user facility where cutting edge research is done on new and improved materials, advanced fuel cells, and biotechnology. The SURF III Synchrotron Ultraviolet Radiation Facility is the world's senior dedicated source of synchrotron radiation, in continuous operation since 1961. SURF III now serves as the US primary national standard for source-based radiometry throughout the generalized optical spectrum: from infrared through extreme ultraviolet.
NIST's Advanced Measurement Laboratory is among the most technically advanced research facilities of its kind in the world. The AML offers American researchers opportunities to make the most sensitive and reliable measurements. This is important as new technologies become more complex and smaller.