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Installing a Light Source 'Racetrack'

March 22, 2011 - 10:42am

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Brookhaven National Lab's NSLS II Construction Site | Photo Courtesy of Brookhaven National Lab

Brookhaven National Lab's NSLS II Construction Site | Photo Courtesy of Brookhaven National Lab

This month, workers at Brookhaven National Laboratory’s National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II), the half-mile electron racetrack for one of the world’s most advanced light sources, will begin filling the facility’s steel and concrete shell.

In 2015, NSLS-II will open its doors — and its ultra-bright beams of x-ray, infrared and ultraviolet light — to thousands of researchers around the world, enabling the detailed exploration of everything from high-temperature superconductors to molecules vital for human life. During construction and operation, NSLS-II is expected to create more than 1,250 construction jobs and 450 scientific, engineering and support jobs.

Construction started in 2009 on the $912-million facility, and is now halfway complete. The project is about a year ahead of schedule thanks to $150 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding that was awarded at the start of construction.

NSLS-II will be the successor to Brookhaven's currently operating light source — NSLS, home to three Nobel Prizes during the last decade. The electrochemical processes of batteries, the atomic structure of a ribosome, the magnetic properties of data storage devices — even dust from a comet — you name it, there's a good chance it's been studied at NSLS.

But as that original facility ages, researchers want to take their experiments to the next level. To probe even smaller, subtler details of their samples, scientists need more intense, better-focused light. NSLS-II will deliver extraordinary intensity and brightness, producing x-rays 10,000 times brighter than the current NSLS.

The giant accelerator’s ring building, which is large enough to encircle Yankee Stadium, is being constructed in fifths, called pentants. As the construction crew finishes the first pentant’s conventional facilities —which includes plumbing, electricity, roofing, and the like — scientists and engineers are moving in for a head start on the installation of accelerator components and beamlines for experiments.

This work transition, called beneficial occupancy, will allow the NSLS-II project team to start mounting the first of 826 magnets that will guide the accelerator’s electrons as they zip around the ring at close to the speed of light. The first girder, a 14-foot-long, precision-aligned casing supporting multiple magnets, will be placed in the ring building this month.

You can watch NSLS-II take shape through time lapse from one of four webcams positioned around the site here.

Or you can find more information about NSLS-II’s recent construction milestones here.

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