MSU nuclear research facility is set to open in 2021

An artist's rendition of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams building as seen from the intersection of Bogue Street and Wilson Road. (Michigan State University Photo)

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State University’s $765 million nuclear research facility is expected to open in 2021, the laboratory’s director said.

Researchers at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams will study the short-lived particles produced as charged beams collide with a target, the Lansing State Journal reported. The findings could have implications in understanding how matter formed in the universe and in fields including national security and medicine.

This year, FRIB engineers installed the first of three pieces of the linear accelerator, which will fire the particle beams. The second piece will be installed by next summer, FRIB Laboratory Director Thomas Glasmacher said.

“We achieved our commissioning goals, and it went better than we had conservatively planned,” Glasmacher said. The facility is 92% complete and should open in two years, he said.

The heart of the project will include the linear accelerator, consisting of 46 cryomodules working to fire the beam. The cryomodules are built by contractors in Michigan, Glasmacher said.

Researchers shot the first beams of argon and krypton last summer using three of the instruments.

Shane Renteria, an ion source engineer, will be working with a team using a 400-kilowatt superconducting linear accelerator to fire charged particle beams down a tunnel at near the speed of light.

“It’s at the leading edge of research,” Renteria said.

The U.S. Department of Energy contributed $635.5 million to the project. The state gave $94.5 million and the university paid $35 million. The first 2 years of operation are expected to bring a $4.4 billion boost to the state’s economy.

The facility will hold 227,000 square feet (21,100 sq. meters) worth of equipment. More than 800 people already work in the facility now, roughly half of them MSU students, Glasmacher said. That number isn’t expected to change much once the facility becomes fully operational.

“The story is not the stuff,” he said. “The stuff is good too. … but the people and the knowledge and the ability to conceive and create one-of-a-kind instruments, that’s part of the assets, too.”

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