The University of Chicago News Office
Dec. 8, 2006 Press Contact: Steve Koppes
(773) 702-8366

Fact Sheet: University of Chicago/Argonne National Laboratory proposal for construction of rare isotope accelerator facility

    Additional media contact:
Suraiya Farukhi

Rare Isotope Accelerators: These sophisticated machines produce exotic atomic nuclei — the cores of atoms and the fuel of stars — that no longer exist in nature and that blink out of existence a tiny fraction of a second after their birth. These nuclei will open up new scientific territory in nuclear physics, astrophysics and nuclear medicine. There are fewer than 300 stable nuclei that are relatively easy to study. Scientists have obtained glimpses of another 3,000 nuclei, but they suspect that thousands more could be studied in a new accelerator.

Scientific Purpose: The new U.S. rare isotope accelerator laboratory would help explore the full range of atomic nuclei, or chemical building blocks, that exist in the universe and how they were produced in stars and exploding stars. In addition, the laboratory would produce isotopes for research in fundamental physics, and for applications in the life sciences and national security.

Societal Benefits: Potential applications of research stemming from the new rare isotope accelerator laboratory include new and more sensitive tracers for studying metabolism and other biological processes. Other possibilities extend to new and improved semiconductors, new and more sensitive methods to detect and identify trace pollutants in the environment, and nuclear “fingerprints” to identify nuclear materials and where they were produced.

The Chicago-Argonne Partnership: The U.S. Department of Energy is expected to issue a request for proposals for a rare isotope facility in 2008. The University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory have already begun to develop a proposal to site the $550 million laboratory in Illinois. The University and Argonne are working with Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and several Illinois and Midwestern universities as potential partners in the project. The project partnership would especially benefit from accelerator technology research collaborations already in progress between Argonne and Fermilab. These collaborations focus on work that can be applied both to a rare isotope accelerator and to the proposed International Linear Collider.

State of Illinois Support: Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed the Rare Isotope Accelerator for Illinois Task Force in 2004. Chaired by James R. Thompson, former Governor of Illinois, and William Daley, JPMorgan Chase Chairman of the Midwest, the task force includes prominent members of the state’s business, civic, government, health care, academic and labor communities. The task force has worked with the State of Illinois and the Illinois congressional delegation to bring the Rare Isotope Accelerator, initially conceived as a $1 billion project, to Argonne National Laboratory.

The Re-Acceleration Concept: The Illinois concept is based on the production of these rare isotopes and their subsequent reacceleration from rest to energies similar to those present in exploding stars using the existing Argonne Tandem Linac Accelerator Systems (ATLAS) at Argonne National Laboratory. This concept leads to capabilities for beams of rare isotopes that would far exceed those of any other re-acceleration-beam facility in the world. This facility would take advantage of unique U.S. scientific strengths that would complement the capabilities of rare isotope accelerator laboratories in Germany and Japan.
Last modified at 12:39 PM CST on Friday, December 08, 2006.

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