Brookhaven National Lab excels at the design, construction, and operation of large-scale, cutting-edge research facilities—some available nowhere else in the world. Each year, thousands of scientists from laboratories, universities, and industries around the world use these facilities to delve into the basic mysteries of physics, chemistry, biology, materials science, energy, and the environment—and develop innovative applications that arise, sometimes at the intersections of these disciplines.
The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) smashes particles together to recreate the conditions of the early universe so scientists can explore the most fundamental building blocks of matter as they existed just after the Big Bang. This research unlocks secrets of the force that holds together 99 percent of the visible universe—everything from stars to planets and people—and triggers advances in science and technology that have applications in fields from medicine to national security. More than 1,000 scientists from around the globe—including hundreds of students training to be part of our nation’s future high-tech workforce—conduct research at RHIC.
The National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) is one of the world’s most widely used scientific facilities, each year hosting more than 2,000 researchers from 400+ universities, laboratories, and companies. These scientists use intense beams of x-ray, ultraviolet, and infrared light along with an array of sophisticated imaging techniques to capture atomic-level “pictures” of a wide variety of materials, from biological molecules to semiconductor devices. In 2015, NSLS will be replaced by NSLS-II, which will be 10,000 times brighter with nanometer-scale resolution—a key resource for researchers at Brookhaven’s CFN—and will enhance the development of next-generation sustainable energy technologies and improve imaging of complex protein structures.
The Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN)—one of five Nanoscale Science Research Centers funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science—provides state-of-the-art tools for creating and exploring the properties of materials with dimensions spanning just billionths of a meter. CFN scientists are dedicated to atomic-level tailoring that addresses a wide range of energy challenges. CFN focus areas include: improving solar cells and other electronic nanomaterials; designing more efficient catalysts; developing new capabilities and uses for electron microscopy; nanofabrication based on soft and biological nanomaterials—all aided by theory and advanced computation.
The NASA Space Radiation Laboratory (NSRL) uses beams of heavy ions from the accelerators that feed RHIC to simulate space radiation and study its effects on biological specimens—such as cells, tissues, and DNA—and industrial materials. The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) and the DOE Office of Science partnered to build NSRL to identify materials and methods that reduce the risks astronauts will face on future long-term space missions.
The Computational Science Center (CSC) houses two supercomputers with collectively more than 45,000 core processors and a suite of new tools developed specifically for interactive visual and statistical data analysis. Researchers in biology, chemistry, physics, and medicine together with applied mathematicians and computer scientists—from Brookhaven, Stony Brook University, Columbia University, and other collaborating institutions—use these tools to address questions in computational biology, nanoscience, sustainable energy, environmental science, and homeland security.
The lab hosts a suite of tools for Radiotracer Chemistry, Instrumentation and Biological Imaging (RCIBI), including small and clinical scale positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners, as well as facilities that produce radioisotopes and incorporate them into molecules and nanomaterials. These radiotracers and tools are designed to image specific biochemical transformations and the movement of molecules, including environmental toxins. They have enabled advances in neuroimaging, drug development, and studies of plant metabolism that improve carbon sequestration and biofuel crop growth.
The Accelerator Test Facility (ATF) is designed to explore new methods of accelerating particles to higher energies and producing ever-brighter x-ray beams. Research conducted by scientists from Brookhaven and other institutions has implications for both physics research and future medical applications, including new cancer-treatment systems. The core capabilities of the ATF include a high-brightness photoinjector electron gun, a 70 million electron-volt linear accelerator, high power lasers synchronized to the electron beam with picosecond precision, four beam lines (most with energy spectrometers), and a sophisticated computer control system.
ATLAS is a particle physics experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Scientists from Brookhaven have played and continue to play key roles in the design, construction, and operation of ATLAS in its search for new discoveries about the particles and forces that shape our universe. Brookhaven is the host laboratory for U.S. collaborators on ATLAS, and our computing facility stores, processes, and distributes ATLAS data to collaborators at universities and laboratories throughout the nation. Some research at ATLAS is complementary to studies at RHIC, but a large portion of the collisions at the LHC are aimed at very different questions.
The Long Island Solar Farm (LISF) is a 32-megawatt solar array built at Brookhaven Lab through a collaboration including BP Solar/MetLife, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), and the Department of Energy. It is currently the largest solar photovoltaic power plant in the Eastern United States, generating enough renewable energy to power approximately 4,500 homes on the LIPA distribution grid. It also provides a testing ground for studies of efficiency, stability, grid integration, and the variability caused by changing weather conditions. A smaller research array designed to produce between 700 kilowatts and one megawatt of electric power, dubbed the Northeast Solar Energy Research Center (NSERC), will also be used by researchers from national labs, academia, and industry to test new technologies aimed at improving solar efficiency, particularly in the northeast.
The Brookhaven Linac Isoptope Producer (BLIP)—positioned at the forefront of research into radioisotopes used in cancer treatment and diagnosis—produces commercially unavailable radioisotopes for use by the medical community and related industries. BLIP consists of a an accelerator beam line and target area for generating radioisotopes already in high demand and for developing those required at the frontiers of nuclear medicine. In conjunction with this mission, scientists also perform irradiations for non-isotope applications and explore opportunities for emerging radioisotope applications.
The Tandem Van de Graaff facility, a large electrostatic accelerator, can provide researchers with beams of more than 40 different types of ions — atoms that have been stripped of their electrons. Ions ranging from hydrogen to uranium are available. The facility consists of two 15 million volt electrostatic accelerators, each about 24 meters long, aligned end-to-end. One of the new and interesting applications found for the large variety of different beams and energies available at the Tandem is the testing of integrated circuit chips under heavy ion bombardment. By simulating the effects of radiation both in space and on the ground, scientists and engineers from several other laboratories and companies are improving the reliability of computers.