Lawrence Berkeley Lab Gains Federal Funds

Victoria Chow/Staff

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Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will receive $115 million as part of President Barack Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, as announced by Secretary of Energy and former director of the lab Steven Chu last week.

The funding comes from a portion of the $787 billion act Obama signed in February aimed to move research forward at major science institutions, while creating new jobs at the same time.

"Most of these projects (being funded by the act) have to do with infrastructure upgrades, and a number of those have been approved, but we have not received any of the money yet," said Jeff Miller, a spokesperson for the lab.

Among the projects that will be funded is the construction of a lab and office building for the Advanced Light Source synchrotron, a soft X-ray light source used by scientists to learn more about atomic structure.

About $14.3 million will go toward constructing a building next to the synchrotron as well as toward the ongoing project of demolishing the Bevatron, an older particle accelerator, to make room for new science buildings.

Another $1.5 million will go toward maintenance for the synchrotron, which is an open facility used by two thousand scientists and industries per year, said Roger Falcone, director of the synchrotron and a UC Berkeley professor of physics. The lab will need to hire about three dozen extra construction workers, he said.

"This will accelerate the completion of the project and fulfill the other half of the requirement of stimulus funding, which is to create jobs, so it provides additional work for the construction field," Falcone said. "It will accelerate the process, which will make the research happen sooner."

Another proposed project at the lab is the Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator, which scientists anticipate will receive $19 million. The money could

potentially fund 50 to 60 new employees to do technical work on the laser system.

Because the high-energy laser system produces a large electric field, it can be built at a smaller scale than normal-sized accelerators while producing the same amount of energy, said Wim Leemans, director of the project. He said while the project received high ratings among scientists, there wasn't enough funding available to build it until recently.

"We were afraid we would lose our leadership in this area, and now we're back in the position so we can maintain the lead," Leemans said. "They told us that we would have gotten money about two years from now, but they would have to spread the project out more years than we wanted. Now, with the (act), we can do it on a much faster timescale, so it allows us be competitive with the rest of the world."

Christine Chen covers research & ideas.Contact her at [email protected]

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