Report from the June 15 media briefing at Brookhaven National Lab

Note: SWINY Board member Ann Marie Cunningham attended last Monday’s media briefing on the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) and NSLS-II, just starting construction at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Here is her report.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the new National Synchrotron Light Source (known officially as NSLS-II) at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) was a major event!

Why a new NSLS?  Brookhaven is worried about losing talent to Argonne National Laboratory, as well as to the UK and other countries with light sources.   And as the presence of so many legislators signified, the NSLS-II will mean jobs for Long Island.

Both New York’s Senators, the President of nearby SUNY-Stony Brook, and a State Assemblyman from the area spoke, as well as Patricia Dehmer, Deputy Director for Science Programs, U.S. Department of Energy, who was instrumental in getting the NSLS-II construction going. U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer declared, “It’s a great day for Lawng Island! It’s a great day for science!”

Afterward, we science writers heard three scientific presentations.

The first, was an overview of what the current Synchrotron makes possible, and what the new one will do. (The Synchrotron contributes to a great deal of basic biology research and drug development, as well as energy related work.)

NSLS-II will be the brightest light source on earth — 10,000 times brighter than the sun. It also will have a much smaller beam, making much more nano research possible. Both Synchrotrons will be open 24 hours a day, six days a week. At present, NSLS serves 1800 scientists a year; NSLS-II will serve 3500 a year and conduct 18 experiments simultaneously. Right now, NSLS’s energy bill is $300,000 a year!

Some of you may remember a BNL presentation six years ago, at the old New York Academy of Sciences building. Part of that event covered Brookhaven’s work on developing more efficient carburetors (catalytic convertors) for car engines. We heard from an industrial user of the NSLS, a chemist, on how NSLS-II will make it easier to study “how natural structures are put together and how they do what they do — form and how function follows form.”

The last presenter was Lisa Miller, a neuroscientist from Brookhaven’s partner, SUNY-Stony Brook.  She has studied plaque in the brains of human Alzheimer’s patients. Her preliminary findings (discovered thanks to NSLS) are that patients’ plaques carry a great deal of metals (zinc, calcium, and others). She hypothesizes that the metals may be the cause of Alzheimer’s, not the plaque per se. Stay tuned!

We then toured the floor of the Synchrotron, and visited four scientists at work, two from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, who were conducting experiments and building a new kind of electron microscope. We heard what they were doing, and saw the hutches where the experiments are stowed in the Synchrotron.  Most of the experiments’ hutches are enveloped in tin foil, to keep heat in and dampness out.

Afterwards, we flew over for a whirlwind tour of Brookhaven’s Nanofabrication Facility (CNF). If you are from industry or another university and want to conduct a nano experiment, you can book time and tools at the CNF. Unlike Cornell’s, Brookhaven’s CNF 1) is free, and 2) conducts its own research. There are five groups working on different kinds of materials, to control their composition and consequently, their performance. Since our guide, Chuck Black, was in charge of the electronic-materials section, we saw his electron scanning microscopes, including one called Helios, which is known as “Brookhaven’s Nano Swiss Army Knife.” Apparently it’s almost always in use. We also saw a lab where Chuck’s group tests the performance of solar panels with a “fake sun.”   I would have liked to have seen BNL’s facility that mimics conditions at the earth’s core, but we ran out of time.

Big story: BP (British Petroleum) is building a 37-megawatt solar farm on 100 acres next door to Brookhaven. BP will sell the energy to Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), which will presumably decrease Brookhaven’s energy bill.

UPDATE: BNL’s Karen McNulty sent this earlier today:


Alzheimer’s Paper Now Online

For those of you who heard Dr. Lisa Miller describe her new work on the role of metal ions in Alzheimer’s disease at last Monday’s NSLS-II groundbreaking/media briefing, or who received Dr. Miller’s slides after the talk, that paper is now published online in the journal NeuroImage and is no longer embargoed. You are free to write about what you heard!

Thanks again for your interest in our research at Brookhaven National Laboratory!

This entry was posted in From the Board. Bookmark the permalink.