Brookhaven's Light Sources Directorate
Serving about one-third of the U.S. Department of Energy’s synchrotron light source user community each year, the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) at Brookhaven Lab is one of the world’s most widely used scientific facilities. Each year, about 2,400 researchers from more than 400 institutions worldwide use its bright beams of x-ray, ultraviolet, and infrared light for research in the fields of biology, chemistry, geophysics, materials science, medicine, and physics. Some 60 percent of those scientists come from institutions in the northeast U.S.
At the NSLS, for example, scientists have produced images of the AIDS virus as it attacks a human cell, developed a method for imaging soft tissue, and created a technique to make faster, denser computer chips. In addition, the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to frequent NSLS user Roderick MacKinnon, a Rockefeller University professor, for work partially done at the NSLS to determine the structure of a specific cell protein that allows nerve and muscle cells to function.
“Since its commissioning in 1982, the NSLS has continually updated and expanded its capabilities to remain at the forefront of science,” comments Steven Dierker, who came to the Lab in May 2001 to chair the NSLS Department. Serving as Brookhaven’s Associate Laboratory Director for Light Sources since July 2003, Dierker oversees 175 employees and an annual budget of $38 million.
Nonetheless, the Laboratory realized that, for the research of its formidable user community to continue to flourish, the NSLS needs to be upgraded within the next decade. And DOE agreed: In its recently released 20-year plan for Office of Science user facilities, DOE includes an upgrade to the NSLS complex, which is called NSLS-II. To come on line in 2012, the proposed upgrade would be an advanced, third-generation x-ray storage ring, producing light that is more than ten thousand times brighter than the present NSLS x-ray ring in the energy range important for research in many fields, including nanoscience, the study of materials on the scale of a nanometer, or a billionth of a meter.
Nanoscience will be the focus of another new, DOE-funded facility at Brookhaven, the Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN). To be built beginning in 2005 across from the site for NSLS-II and to be operational by 2008, CFN will be an interdisciplinary facility providing state-of-the-art capabilities to tailor materials at the atomic level, thus improving the chemical or physical functioning of these materials. The resulting “functional nanomaterials” are expected to be the basis of such future technology as faster computers, improved solar energy conversion, and more efficient chemical catalysis.