U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science awards $529M to continue forefront nuclear science research at FRIB

04 August 2023

East Lansing, Mich. – The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE-SC) has awarded $529 million to continue world-leading nuclear science research at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) at Michigan State University (MSU). The new cooperative agreement provides $529,068,000 over five years to operate FRIB as a DOE-SC user facility to enable unprecedented discovery opportunities envisioned by a user community of 1,800 scientists, supporting the mission of the DOE-SC Office of Nuclear Physics.

FRIB enables scientists to make discoveries about the properties of rare isotopes, nuclear astrophysics, fundamental interactions, and applications for society, including in medicine, homeland security, and industry.

“We are grateful to the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, Congress, and MSU, for their continued trust in FRIB to advance the nation’s science program with respect to rare isotope research,” said FRIB Laboratory Director Thomas Glasmacher. “This new award enables FRIB to provide unparalleled discovery opportunities for world-leading scientists to spur discoveries that will benefit humankind, and, by being located on the campus of a major research university, we will inspire students to join the next generation of engineers and scientists.”  

FRIB enables forefront science

Since the start of user operation in May 2022, FRIB has delivered more than 200 rare isotope beams to experiments and supported 506 participants, including 94 students, across 39 countries, and 136 institutions (including U.S. national laboratories, colleges, and universities).

Among the published results was a surprise that the heaviest magnesium isotope has a half-life only half of the expected value: Crossing N = 28 Toward the Neutron Drip Line: First Measurement of Half-Lives at FRIB. A second FRIB publication, Microsecond Isomer at the N = 20 Island of Shape Inversion Observed at FRIB, details how researchers found a sodium isotope that has an isomeric excited state with a spherical wave function, something never before observed. The results provide insight for nuclear models.

FRIB serves a global user community

FRIB’s scientific user community—1,800 scientists from 123 U.S. colleges and universities, 12 national laboratories, and 51 countries—is composed of scientists, postdoctoral research associates, and graduate students. The community continues to develop new instruments and concepts to optimize FRIB’s discovery potential, based on new scientific insights.

FRIB users will converge at FRIB in East Lansing, Michigan, 9-11 August for the annual Low Energy Community Meeting (LECM). LECM brings together hundreds of members of the worldwide low-energy nuclear physics community to interact and discuss future plans, initiatives, and instruments.

FRIB adds value to the nation

The DOE-SC’s core investment in fundamental rare isotope research and user facility operation of FRIB enables additional significant and synergistic activities in service to the nation.

  • Leveraging FRIB for chip testing
    • Supporting a national need for testing capacity, FRIB operates the FRIB Single Events Effects (FSEE) facility, which uses energetic and penetrating heavy-ion beams to measure the response of electronic components to such ions. This simulates in a few minutes the effect of cosmic rays on electronics over decades. FSEE provides up to 2,000 hours a year to users.
    • Additionally, MSU obtained a $14M federal contract funded by the U.S. Department of Defense Test Resource Management Center (TRMC) and awarded through the U.S. Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to refurbish its K500 cyclotron into a dedicated facility to test electronics for space flight. The new facility will increase by thousands of hours annually the nation’s chip-testing capacity for next-generation semiconductor devices, including those used for applications such as commercial spaceflight, wireless technology, and autonomous vehicles.
  • Isotope harvesting
    • Isotope harvesting at FRIB will provide novel opportunities for discovery. During routine operation—without interfering with FRIB’s primary users—extra, unused isotopes can be “harvested” for use in multiple fields of study, such as medicine, biochemistry, materials science, horticulture, and astrophysics. In medicine, they could help researchers develop cancer treatments and diagnostics. Operational in 2024, the DOE Isotope Program is providing $13.2 million over five years for base operations and core research.
  • Leveraging key FRIB technologies: In establishing and operating FRIB, core capabilities were developed that transfer to other industries and applications, including:
    • Superconducting radio frequency (SRF) technology. FRIB’s linear accelerator relies on SRF and cryogenic technologies to operate. Building on the expertise developed in establishing FRIB’s world-class SRF program, FRIB is now developing new SRF technologies in collaboration with other laboratories. Also, FRIB recently hosted the global SRF community in Grand Rapids as host of the premier SRF conference. FRIB was selected as a first-time host due to its success in assembling and building—with the SRF community’s support and curation—what will be the world’s most powerful heavy-ion accelerator when ramped up to full power. 
    • Helium liquefaction: To meet its need for liquid helium to operate the SRF linear accelerator, FRIB built and operates its own helium cryogenic plant and together with the MSU College of Engineering established the MSU Cryogenic Initiative to develop key technology and educate cryogenic engineers.
  • Workforce development: Workforce training in areas of expertise in short supply nationally is a significant benefit of FRIB’s location on the MSU campus.
    • The U.S. faces a shortage of radiochemists that will be, in part, addressed by attracting students into the field with FRIB, and training them in the MSU College of Natural Science’s Chemistry Department.
    • The demand for cryogenic engineers has increased in the last decade. Having FRIB at MSU offers a unique opportunity to attract and train the next generation of cryogenic system innovators to prepare them for opportunities in cryogenic engineering and related fields. A collaboration between FRIB and MSU’s College of Engineering, the MSU Cryogenic Initiative combines classroom education with training on the nation’s largest helium liquefaction plant at FRIB.
    • In the Accelerator Science and Engineering Traineeship (ASET) program, FRIB, the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Natural Science, and the College of Engineering offer graduate education programs in accelerator science and engineering to contribute to the workforce in areas of national need.

Michigan State University has been advancing the common good with uncommon will for more than 165 years. One of the world's leading research universities, MSU pushes the boundaries of discovery to make a better, safer, healthier world for all while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 400 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges. 

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of today’s most pressing challenges. For more information, visit energy.gov/science.

Michigan State University operates the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams as a user facility for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE-SC), supporting the mission of the DOE-SC Office of Nuclear Physics.