Michigan State’s FRIB creating dozens of rare isotopes for scientists

EAST LANSING – The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams at Michigan State University has been open for less than a year but has already yielded more than 100 rare isotopes.

That may not sound significant, but at FRIB, new isotopes are enabling experiments that will help scientists make potentially world-changing discoveries as they better understand the universe around us.

On May 2nd, the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams was officially opened. The facility has a 400-kilowatt linear accelerator that fires a beam of particles at the nuclei of various atomic elements. When the beam hits the element, it creates rare variations of that element, known as isotopes.

The ability to work with rare isotopes is vital for scientists around the world. In the few months since the facility officially opened, FRIB officials said they welcomed five experiments involving 245 experimenters from 62 institutions, including the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, the University of Tennessee and universities in Italy, France and other European countries locations.

“You could say scientists have been waiting for this facility for more than 20 years, and now it’s here,” said Brad Sherrill, FRIB’s scientific director. “Everyone strives to do their experiments as quickly as possible, and we’re really breaking new ground with the facility. Things are new and we have to make sure things are done as well as possible.”

Experiments at the $730 million facility, which has been certified by the US Department of Energy as an Energy Office of Science user facility, began almost as soon as the doors opened. A team of scientists from FRIB, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Mississippi State University, Florida State University, Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, University of North Carolina, Ursinus College and University of Massachusetts Lowell were the first to start experimenting.

According to Vandana Tripathi, an assistant professor of physics at FSU who is on the FRIB team, they wanted to study the life of nuclei and their decay, ultimately answering questions like: how does visible matter form and evolve? How can nuclear physics be used to benefit society?

FRIB officials released their second call for experiment proposals in October, seeking requests that could be converted to FRIB experiments later this year and into 2025. The FRIB Program Advisory Committee will meet March 1-3 to review the proposals.

The FRIB received 82 proposals from 597 people — including 354 from the United States — from 130 institutions in 30 countries and 26 US states in the first round, and Sherrill expects similar numbers for the second review.

According to officials, the FRIB has 465 employees, along with 124 graduate students, 111 undergraduate students and 40 contractors. According to a FRIB report, students are involved in various research activities, such as FRIB research associate Sean Dziubinski, who was part of a scientific team that developed a new optical detector that allows scientists to detect isotopes at a high beam rate and high power to investigate.

The second year of research and work at FRIB appears to be getting even busier than the first, Sherrill said, with about 400 scientists hoping to visit the facility from about 70 different institutions across the country and around the world.

While the FRIB is fully open and operational, there is still work to be done to bring the facility up to full capacity, Sherrill said. Ultimately, the linear accelerator at the core of the FRIB will reach 400 kilowatts of power, but it needs to build power. It started at 1 kilowatt and increased to 5 kilowatts. The focus will be on increasing this performance in the coming year.

Higher beam power, Sherrill said, means creating rarer isotopes. Increasing the beam power and meeting the increasing demand from scientists worldwide to use the facility will be among the top challenges FRIB officials will face in the years to come.

“It is an exciting time with many challenges. It’s wonderful to have this opportunity,” Sherrill said. “These are things we’ve wanted to do for decades, and now we’re finally getting the chance to do it.”

Contact Mark Johnson at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @ByMarkJohnson.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

| |
Back to top button