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Facility for Rare Isotope Beams: The Journey Has Begun on DOE's latest Scientific User Facility

March 20, 2014 - 3:11pm

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From left to right: Congressman Rogers, Senator Stabenow, Deputy Under Secretary for Science and Energy Dr. Michael Knotek, President Lou Anna Simon of Michigan State University, and Senator Levin break ground on the FRIB site. Photo Courtesy of Michigan State University.

From left to right: Congressman Rogers, Senator Stabenow, Deputy Under Secretary for Science and Energy Dr. Michael Knotek, President Lou Anna Simon of Michigan State University, and Senator Levin break ground on the FRIB site. Photo Courtesy of Michigan State University.

From left to right: Congressman Rogers, Senator Stabenow, Deputy Under Secretary for Science and Energy Dr. Michael Knotek, President Lou Anna Simon of Michigan State University, Senator Levin, and Chief of Staff to Governor Rick Snyder Dennis Muchmore break ground on FRIB. Photo courtesy of Michigan State University.

From left to right: Congressman Rogers, Senator Stabenow, Deputy Under Secretary for Science and Energy Dr. Michael Knotek, President Lou Anna Simon of Michigan State University, Senator Levin, and Chief of Staff to Governor Rick Snyder Dennis Muchmore break ground on FRIB. Photo courtesy of Michigan State University.

A panorama of the FRIB construction site from the roof of a nearby Michigan State University campus building.

A panorama of the FRIB construction site from the roof of a nearby Michigan State University campus building.

From left to right: Congressman Rogers, Senator Stabenow, Deputy Under Secretary for Science and Energy Dr. Michael Knotek, President Lou Anna Simon of Michigan State University, and Senator Levin break ground on the FRIB site. Photo Courtesy of Michigan State University.
From left to right: Congressman Rogers, Senator Stabenow, Deputy Under Secretary for Science and Energy Dr. Michael Knotek, President Lou Anna Simon of Michigan State University, Senator Levin, and Chief of Staff to Governor Rick Snyder Dennis Muchmore break ground on FRIB. Photo courtesy of Michigan State University.
A panorama of the FRIB construction site from the roof of a nearby Michigan State University campus building.

After many years of planning, ground was officially broken on the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) in a ceremony held at the construction site on Michigan State University’s campus on March 17th.

FRIB is the latest in a long list of the Department of Energy’s scientific user facilities which provide scientists and researchers with the most advanced tools of modern science to understand and address some of the most pressing questions of our time. Nearly 28,000 users depend on them each year to perform new science, including researchers from academia, industry, and government laboratories, spanning all fifty states and the District of Columbia.

At the heart of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams will be a state of the art superconducting linear accelerator that produces rare isotopes by a process called in-beam fragmentation. What makes FRIB so unique is the high power of its planned accelerator. The astounding 400 kilowatt accelerator will result in rates for rare isotopes that are orders of magnitude higher than any existing or planned facility. This will provide unparalleled opportunities for the first-class scientists who will make use of the facility to explore and understand atoms in ways that weren’t previously possible.

The isotopes created with such powerful accelerators are so rare that they can’t be found naturally on earth. Instead, they're created in extreme conditions such as the centers of exploding supernovae. These isotopes decay into the elements that we're more familiar with and by studying their creation, scientists are able to explore and more deeply understand how elements are formed. This high discovery-potential science will strengthen our ability to understand how nature, our bodies, and the environment interact with each other on an atomic level. New knowledge in this arena will yield exciting applications for society in medicine, homeland security, industry, and beyond.

Acting Provost June Youatt kicked off the ceremony by welcoming the audience and introduced the esteemed lineup of speakers, including both senators of the state of Michigan, Senator Stabenow and Senator Levin, as well as Congressmen Camp and Rogers. President Lou Anna Simon of Michigan State University shared her enthusiasm for FRIB and then introduced Dr. Michael Knotek, the Deputy Under Secretary for Science and Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Dr. Knotek was actually involved in the early planning team for FRIB so he brought a personal connection to the project in his remarks. He emphasized his excitement for the new scientific research community that MSU will foster with the facility and also stressed the value FRIB will bring to nuclear physicists serving as a hub for many years to come.

As Dr. Knotek mentioned in his remarks, breaking ground on FRIB and the completion of the facility in 2022 marks only the first step in the journey to accomplishing what the center will strive to do. Scientific user facilities serve as important hubs in the communities they serve and the leaders of FRIB have the great responsibility of making sure it does just that for the community of East Lansing, MI and beyond. Underscoring Dr. Knotek’s point is the fact that the FRIB User Organization already has 1,351 members from 344 institutions from 50 countries, 253 of which are colleges and universities. 

Watch a video of the full ceremony to listen to the speakers' remarks.

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