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Photon Sciences Directorate at Brookhaven National Laboratory

Reflections on the Year

Steve Dierker

Steve Dierker, Associate Laboratory Director for Photon Sciences

 This is a very exciting period for photon sciences at Brookhaven National Laboratory. It is also a time of unprecedented growth for the Photon Sciences Directorate, which operates the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) and is constructing NSLS-II, both funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

Reflecting the quick pace of our activities, we chose the theme “Discovery at Light Speed” for the directorate’s 2010 annual report, a fiscal year bookended by October 2009 and September 2010.

The year began with the news that NSLS users Venki Ramakrishnan of Cambridge University (also a former employee in Brookhaven’s Biology Department) and Thomas A. Steitz of Yale University were sharing the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Ada E. Yonath of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Every research project has the potential for accolades. In 2010, NSLS users and staff published close to 900 papers, with about 170 appearing in premiere journals. Those are impressive stats for a facility nearly three decades old, testament to the highly dedicated team keeping NSLS at peak performance and the high quality of its user community.

Our NSLS users come from a worldwide community of scientists using photons, or light, to carry out research in energy and environmental sciences, physics, materials science, chemistry, biology and medicine. All are looking forward to the new capabilities enabled by NSLS-II, which will offer unprecedented resolution at the nanoscale. The new facility will produce x-rays more than 10,000 times brighter than the current NSLS and host a suite of sophisticated instruments for cutting-edge science.

Some of the scientific discoveries we anticipate at NSLS-II will lead to major advances in alternative energy technologies, such as hydrogen and solar. These discoveries could pave the way to:

  • catalysts that split water with sunlight for hydrogen production
  • materials that can reversibly store large quantities of electricity or hydrogen
  • high-temperature superconducting materials that carry electricity with no loss for efficient power transmission lines
  • materials for solid-state lighting with half of the present power consumption

Excitement about NSLS-II is evident in many ways, most notably the extraordinary response we had to the 2010 call for beamline development proposals for the anticipated 60 or more beamlines that NSLS-II will ultimately host. A total of 54 proposals were submitted and, after extensive review, 34 were approved. Funding from both the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health has already been secured to support the design and construction of a number of these beamlines.

FY11 is a challenging and exciting year for the NSLS-II Project as we reach the peak of our construction activity. We remain on track to complete the project by March 2014, a full 15 months ahead of schedule and with even more capabilities than originally planned. The Photon Sciences Directorate is well on its way to fulfilling our vision of being a provider of choice for world-class photon sciences and facilities.

— Steve Dierker, Associate Laboratory Director for Photon Sciences