The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) is a new national user facility for nuclear science, funded by the Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE-SC) and operated by Michigan State University (MSU). FRIB will enable scientists to make discoveries about the properties of rare isotopes in order to better understand the physics of nuclei, nuclear astrophysics, fundamental interactions, and applications for society in medicine, homeland security, and industry.
The heart of FRIB is a high-power superconducting linear accelerator that supports all cutting-edge methods of producing rare isotopes. FRIB will enable scientific research supporting a community of more than 1,000 scientists from around the world.
Final design of the FRIB conventional facilities—the tunnel and support buildings—is complete and ready for construction to begin upon approval from the U.S. Department of Energy. Pre-construction site preparation is complete and pilings for the earth-retention system have been placed.
Research and development activities have been successfully completed, with much of the R&D work accomplished in collaboration with national laboratories. Final design of the technical systems—accelerator and experimental equipment—is underway and anticipated to be complete in 2014. Project completion is expected in 2021, managing to early completion in 2019.
The establishment of FRIB will support the mission of the DOE-SC Office of Nuclear Physics to discover, explore, and understand all forms of nuclear matter. Particle accelerators, including the superconducting linear accelerator at the core of FRIB, enable the production and study of isotopes not commonly found in nature that have a host of basic and applied uses.
An isotope is like a flavor of an element. Elements are stable and naturally occurring atoms, like oxygen, carbon or copper. When protons or neutrons are removed the nucleus becomes more unstable and thus, rare. We are not sure how many new elements remain to be discovered, but it is likely a majority of possible isotopes have not been discovered. Many isotopes exist for only fractions of seconds before they transform into a more stable form. Rare isotopes are not normally found in nature. Instead, they are forged in some of the most spectacular processes in the cosmos, including exploding stars known as supernovae.
How It Works
A beam of stable nuclei is accelerated to half the speed of light and directed at a thin target material. When the beam impacts the target, the resulting collision creates a number of reaction products. Among those products are sought-after rare isotope. This mixture continues to speed down the beamline, where a series of magnets separate the desired isotopes for study.
Why It's Important
With FRIB we will, for the first time, have the capability to produce most of the same rare isotopes that are created in the thermonuclear explosions of supernovae, which then decay into the elements found on Earth. This will help us better understand the origins of the elements. The same isotopes are needed to develop a comprehensive model of atomic nuclei and how they interact.
Researchers using FRIB will be able to improve their understanding of how nuclear particles may be used to model, diagnose, and cure diseases. The improved nuclear models and precision data will allow optimization of the next generation of nuclear reactors and evaluation of techniques to destroy nuclear waste. They will probe advanced materials to examine the processes involved on the nano- and micro-scale, providing insights into how materials are affected by radiation and other forces. Modeling atomic nuclei and their interactions – a challenging problem in science – can also help lead to breakthroughs in security, the environment, high energy physics, nanoscience, and more.
Education of the next generation of scientists is a top priority. FRIB will build on the tradition to routinely involve undergraduate and graduate students in research. FRIB will expand those opportunities. MSU's nuclear physics graduate program is ranked No. 1 in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report's rankings of graduate schools for 2010. Each year about 10 percent of the nation's nuclear science PhD awardees are educated at MSU.