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MSU hosts first major FRIB project discussions

February 21, 2010

More than 200 scientists from across the globe gathered in East Lansing this weekend to discuss plans for the $550 million Facility for Rare Isotope Beams project.

In a three-day gathering that will conclude Monday, the scientists are hashing out equipment plans for the particle accelerator expected to be completed by 2017.

The gathering is the first major meeting to discuss FRIB’s technical aspects, FRIB Director Konrad Gelbke said.

FRIB is a nuclear research facility that will use cutting-edge technology to allow researchers to study rare atoms, or isotopes.

Construction on FRIB tentatively is scheduled to begin in 2013.

Gelbke said although FRIB is years away from being completed, the gathering is necessary so researchers can begin prioritizing some of FRIB’s most important aspects.

“This is the first step in several which we need to do in order to get the machinery going to build the thing,” Gelbke said.

Gelbke said there were a number of meetings held during FRIB’s earlier phases to create a “wish list” of equipment researchers will need to conduct experiments at FRIB.

This weekend’s gathering creates a “sense of urgency” in the researchers because it lays the foundation for FRIB’s conceptualization, he said.

“We know what the scope of the project is, so now people can really think seriously into getting organized and getting collaborations going and developing proposals to make it happen,” Gelbke said.

Thomas Aumann, a nuclear scientist from Germany, said he is interested in hearing various equipment proposals during the meeting.

Aumann, an MSU alumnus, said FRIB will be a boon to the scientific community because the isotopes created at the facility can be used in various applications.

“It’s nice to see what the people are thinking here and to discuss this and maybe to start collaboration on certain developments,” Aumann said. “It will be a unique facility.”

Suzanne Lapi, an assistant professor of radiology at Washington University in St. Louis, said the gathering is crucial because it is the first step in examining the broad range of possibilities for FRIB’s technical aspects.

Lapi said she is interested in using the rare isotopes that will be produced at FRIB for medical applications, primarily cancer therapy.

She said Washington University has three particle accelerators at its campus, but FRIB will produce different isotopes than can be created at those facilities.

“We’re finding out what we can make and the sort of infrastructure we need to install it to ensure we make the most of these isotopes,” Lapi said.

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