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Next phase of FRIB reaches approval

September 6, 2010

Recent developments with the forthcoming multimillion dollar Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, or FRIB, bring the project’s researchers closer to answering science’s many unknown and unanswered questions.

The U.S. Department of Energy, or DOE, Office of Science, gave the project critical decision 1 approval Wednesday, which establishes the design of the building to house the facility and the next phase’s cost.

With CD-1 approval, preliminary design on the facility will take shape starting next month and lasting until 2010-12. That phase is expected to cost about $55 million and construction on the facility is expected to cost about $550 million at its completion, said Alex Parsons, FRIB’s project communications manager.

Parsons said CD-1 is one of the first official steps by the DOE toward project completion, as it is an evaluation of the project’s status at a particular point in time. The project will be complete by CD-4, he said.

“We’re pleased that we got this approved and that we can continue to design this effort at MSU,” Parsons said. “The university is very supportive (and) the support of the administration is fantastic.”

Thomas Glasmacher, FRIB’s project director for MSU, said he is excited for the project’s outcomes in the years ahead.
“This facility will be where scientists can make discoveries and the DOE decided that rare isotopes was an area of science that needed further study,” Glasmacher said.

“MSU has been doing rare isotope science for the last 20 years so it is only natural for the university to have this research here.”

When construction of the project is complete prior to the end of the decade, about 1,500 scientists from across the globe will work with atomic nuclei and eventually make discoveries such as where matter in the universe might have originated from, said Bradley Sherrill, FRIB’s chief scientist.

“We have ideas, but we don’t have detailed models that describe where they all come from. The missing piece is FRIB, and we anticipate we can get some of those answers,” he said. “It’s a complicated challenge — we need to make nuclei that have different properties than the normal ones scientists have to work with.”

In addition to potentially answering questions of the many unknowns of the universe, FRIB will be used toward more practical applications in everyday life, Parsons said.

“The effort will exist to help scientists continue to study rare isotopes (for) applications in medicine, nuclear theory and other areas of study,” he said.

From machine engines and radioactive isotopes to studying human blood flow, scientists expect new medical procedures could be developed as an outcome of this project.

And there always will be a possibility where scientists might stumble on something new, Sherrill said.

“We know there are things we will find,” Sherrill said. “When you have a new tool, something that is new for science, often you find things you didn’t expect to find. I think we can’t even anticipate all of the benefits that this will bring.”

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