Big news at Brookhaven

The lab's new light source will put Long Island on the cutting edge

The following editorial appeared in Newsday on July 18, 2007.

In some future history of America's struggle to find new forms of energy, yesterday will stand out in red letters. It was the day the Department of Energy announced that a new light source, capable of illuminating objects as small as a billionth of a meter, will be built right here on Long Island, at Brookhaven National Laboratory. This is huge.

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The new national synchrotron light source (NSLS-II) will emit light 10,000 times brighter than the lab's current source. It will be more potent than any light source now in existence or in design. That is a crucial competitive edge.

It means scientists who want to work on the frontiers of energy research, for example, will flock to Brookhaven to use light from the new source. It will be right next to the lab's new Center for Functional Nanomaterials, which opened in May. That's where it belongs. Working with materials as small as a nanometer, a billionth of a meter, will require the light that NSLS-II can provide. Together, they'll create a powerful synergy.

A team led by Steve Dierker, former director of the current light source, created the conceptual design for NSLS-II, but that did not guarantee that the machine would end up here. At a crucial meeting at the Department of Energy in June, Frank Crescenzo, an official in the department's Brookhaven site office, answered a barrage of questions from an advisory board. The questions have been laid to rest, and the deputy secretary of energy, Clay Sell, has signed "critical decision 1," which assigns NSLS-II to Brookhaven, at a cost of $750 to $925 milllion.

"The place is here, the time is now," said Patricia Dehmer, of the department's Office of Basic Energy Sciences, to almost 500 users of the current source and potential users of the new one. She deserves a big round of applause for getting it this far, and a bigger one for pledging to shepherd the project until the NSLS-II opens in 2015. Kudos also go to the legislators who played big roles: Sens. Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and, more recently, Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington); plus State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemb. Marc Alessi (D-Manor Park), who got crucial state funding.

There are budgetary and bureaucratic hurdles ahead, but let's take a moment to bask in this truly exciting news.


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