How Did a Small Company in Brooklyn Become a Supplier to NIST of The Infrared Reflectance Standard?

Strangely, it is another story that involves Xerox. We were shipping reflectors for fusing the toner on one of the best selling copiers that Xerox had ever built. Thousands a week. Remember, this was in the 70’s when Xerox owned the copier business.

Their QC department rejected a shipment for low reflectivity, which we knew met the spec. After all, we were calibrating our Beckman Spectrophotometer with an NBS (National Bureau of Standards) as NIST was then known, and they were using a standard that their optics lab manager had produced. Our NBS Standard was a quartz flat with a vapor deposited gold on one surface.

I flew to Xerox in Rochester NY with my NBS standard in hand for the “shoot out.” Frank Winski, the manager of the optics lab, no trivial position at Xerox, measured the NBS mirror on his Beckman, the identical instrument to ours incidentally, and actually told me, “The NBS standard is 2% off”. I said, “Frank, that’s like saying there is no God. Your calibration must be off.” To my great annoyance, he refused to back down. The reject would stand.

I called the NBS Metrology group in Gaithersburg, MD., and made an appointment for the next day. They remeasured their mirror and to their dismay (and mine), indeed agreed that the vapor deposited gold had degraded with time.

It was not a pleasant scene. I assumed a recall of all the outstanding IR Standards was being discussed, but as “the messenger” I was not eager to hang around. When I thought a sufficient amount of time had passed, I sent a Laser Gold coated mirror for their consideration as an IR Standard. It was measured and put aside.

When it was re-measured a year later, and exhibited the theoretically high reflectivity of gold, and the ability to be physically cleaned, they ordered 50 mirrors. These were aged for five years and finally offered to the optics industry, unchanged from the day we shipped them. Proud of our achievement, Cohan-Epner, as the company was then called, ordered the first Laser Gold coated IR Standard.

Click Here for the National Bureau of Standards Certificate.
Click Here to be directed to the National Institute of Standards and Technology website.