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Accelerators for Basic Research

Brookhaven National Lab excels at the design, construction, and operation of large-scale accelerator facilities, a tradition that started with the Cosmotron and continues today with the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) and the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory (NSRL). With the construction of the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II), the Lab began adopting high-energy accelerator technology to achieve unprecedented brightness, integrating damping wigglers in a unique configuration.


Brookhaven Lab is noted for the design, construction and operation of large-scale, cutting-edge accelerator facilities that support thousands of scientists worldwide.

Interested in gaining access to these facilities for research? See the contact number listed for each facility.

RHIC tunnel

Accelerator Test Facility

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.

Contact: (631) 344-4381

RHIC tunnel

Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider

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.

Contact: (631) 344-4619

photo of NSLS-II

National Synchrotron Light Source II

The National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) generates intense beams of x-ray, ultraviolet, and infrared light and offers an array of sophisticated imaging techniques to capture atomic-level “pictures” of a wide variety of materials, from biological molecules to semiconductor devices. NSLS-II has a nanometer-scale resolution—a key resource for researchers at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials—and will enhance the development of next-generation sustainable energy technologies and improve imaging of complex protein structures.

Contact: (631) 344-5862


NASA Space Radiation Laboratory

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.

Contact: (631) 344-3536