Fermilab begins work on new research center
By Jenette Sturges email@example.com December 17, 2011 9:49PM
Construction equipment sits idle on Friday, Dec. 16, 2011, on the Fermilab campus near the future site of the Illinois Accelerator Research Center. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 22, 2012 8:04AM
Fermilab physicists and local lawmakers broke ground Friday morning on the new Illinois Accelerator Research Center, a research facility that promises to bring hundreds of high-tech jobs to the area.
When completed in 2013, the new research center will wrap around the Collider Detector at Fermilab and provide a state-of-the-art facility for research, development and industrialization of particle accelerator technology.
Whereas particle accelerators like Fermilab’s now-defunct Tevatron were once the realm of the scientist doing basic research on the nature of the universe, accelerators now have a broader mandate for commercial applications, said Fermilab Director Pier Oddone.
The goal for the facility is to develop relationships between scientists and private businesses to develop accelerator technology that can be used in medicine, industry and national security. The facility will even work to solve environmental issues, from purifying wastewater to energy efficient sterilization of medical instruments and food packaging.
Though most people think of accelerators on the scale of Fermilab’s Tevatron or the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, more than 30,000 smaller particle accelerators exist around the world and can be used for applications other than basic science research.
“The innovation now implemented in many areas often came about as the by-product of our pushing the technological envelope of our own accelerators...needed for advancing particle physics,” said Oddone.
The new facility will include both new construction and space once used for Tevatron experiments.
“Illinois has a history of recognizing the value of national laboratories to spur private sector development,” said state Rep. Mike Fortner, a former Fermilab scientist who now represents the 95th district. “This is the kind of project I always hoped to be able to point to when I got to the legislature.”
The Illinois Jobs Now capital bill is providing $20 million to fund the design and construction of the facility, which is supposed to create 80 immediate construction jobs. More jobs for highly skilled researchers are expected to follow.
Though scientists and politicians stuck the ceremonial shovels in the ground Friday morning, preliminary work in laying utility lines has already begun. Construction is expected to take about two years.