The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, December 26, 2008

MSU reels in $550M isotope beam facility

By The Building Tradesman

EAST LANSING- "This is a great day for science," said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. It was a pretty good day for Michigan State University and the building trades, too.

On Thursday, Dec. 11, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science today named Michigan State University as the site for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB). The facility is expected to cost $550 million.

"We are grateful to the Department of Energy's commitment to address this critical priority for the nation's physical sciences research infrastructure, and we are proud to have been selected as a partner," Simon added. "We are deeply dedicated to working with the Department of Energy's Office of Science to develop an exceptional user facility serving the needs of national and international scientists.

FRIB will build on the work done by MSU's National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory, which submitted the proposal to the Department of Energy. The selection of MSU was the result of a competitive, merit review process that utilized a panel of world-renowned experts from universities, national laboratories and federal agencies.

According to information provided by MSU, the new facility will provide intense beams of rare isotopes - short-lived atomic nuclei not normally found on Earth - that will enable researchers to address leading-edge questions in nuclear structure and nuclear astrophysics. Such questions include: What is the origin of the elements we find in nature? Why do stars sometimes explode? How can we better model atomic nuclei and their interactions? What combinations of neutrons and protons can make an atomic nucleus? What are the new applications of isotopes that can better diagnose and cure disease?

The heart of the new facility will be a high-intensity heavy-ion linear accelerator that will provide world-unique technical abilities. These will include the ability to conduct experiments with fast, stopped and re-accelerated beams, which will help users extend the reach of nuclear science. The university said FRIB "will establish world-leadership in rare-isotope science conducted in the United States in the future."

A statement by the Department of Energy said the new facility "will provide research opportunities for an international community of approximately 1000 university and laboratory scientists, postdoctoral associates, and graduate students."

MSU said conceptual design work for the facility will begin this year, with construction expecting to take about one decade. Congress still must approve money for the project.