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Fermilab's New Commercial Research Center

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the check-it-out dept.

Science 24

PolygamousRanchKid writes "When completed in 2013, the new research center will wrap around the Collider Detector at Fermilab and provide a state-of-the-art facility for research, development and industrialization of particle accelerator technology. Whereas particle accelerators like Fermilab's now-defunct Tevatron were once the realm of the scientist doing basic research on the nature of the universe, accelerators now have a broader mandate for commercial applications, said Fermilab Director Pier Oddone. The goal for the facility is to develop relationships between scientists and private businesses to develop accelerator technology that can be used in medicine, industry and national security. Though most people think of accelerators on the scale of Fermilab's Tevatron or the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, more than 30,000 smaller particle accelerators exist around the world and can be used for applications other than basic science research. 'The innovation now implemented in many areas often came about as the by-product of our pushing the technological envelope of our own accelerators...needed for advancing particle physics,' said Oddone."

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24 comments

This power must be guarded! (1)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | more than 2 years ago | (#38423530)

We don't want the Italians getting their hands on Fremilab and its atomic powers. Never give any quarter to their islamocommunist designs on America!

Definite possibilities (3, Interesting)

Droog57 (2516452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38423560)

I was somewhat surprised that they completely shut down the Tevatron, since I am sure that many Corporations or Research Companies would drool at the chance to gather data specific to various technologies that are out there now in the Commercial world. It would be interesting to know if the Accelerator could be made to be commercially viable..

Re:Definite possibilities (3, Informative)

thegreatemu (1457577) | more than 2 years ago | (#38424170)

Keep in mind that the Tevatron is only the last stage of a whole series of accelerators. The Booster and the Main Injector, the next two biggest rings, are still operational, as well as various other linacs and beam lines (neutrinos, pions, muons, name your particle). In fact the Main Injector is probably the new focus of the site, for long-baseline neutrino studies.

In addition to commercial uses, accelerators have huge potential for medical use, especially proton beams, which are an exploding cancer treatment option. Fermilab already has a strong medical physics program, so expanding into industrial applications is a reasonable move.

Re:Definite possibilities (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38427980)

Keep in mind that the Tevatron is only the last stage of a whole series of accelerators. The Booster and the Main Injector, the next two biggest rings, are still operational, as well as various other linacs and beam lines (neutrinos, pions, muons, name your particle). In fact the Main Injector is probably the new focus of the site, for long-baseline neutrino studies.

In addition to commercial uses, accelerators have huge potential for medical use, especially proton beams, which are an exploding cancer treatment option. Fermilab already has a strong medical physics program, so expanding into industrial applications is a reasonable move.

The University of Chicago (which runs Fermilab) Alumni Magazine has a very good article [uchicago.edu] about Fermilab and the future:

While scientists at CERN continue research on the high-energy frontier, there is still room for discoveries at Fermilab. The focus will shift to neutrino beams used in fixed-target experiments, and researchers will take advantage of the Tevatron’s now quiet machinery. “There are a total of nine accelerators at Fermilab now,” says Kim. “Four will be shut down, and three of these four will be reconfigured to boost the intensity of the neutrino and muon beams.” Instead of speeding up the particle beams, researchers will work to produce the most particles possible, hoping to observe previously unseen interactions.

it will be rebuild before 2149 anyways (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38443982)

it will be rebuild before 2149 anyways

Also... (3, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38423612)

Fermilab Director Pier Oddone also managed to mention that the Fermilab gift shop is now stocking a variety of novelty plush quarks, 'Experi-mint' brand candies, and similar knicknacks before breaking down and sobbing something about 'Is this why I made it through my postdoc?'

Re:Also... (3, Informative)

Phroon (820247) | more than 2 years ago | (#38427712)

Re:Also... (1)

Phoghat (1288088) | more than 2 years ago | (#38432938)

Keerist! Jesus wept.

Remarkable (1)

vikingpower (768921) | more than 2 years ago | (#38423652)

This announcement comes only days after all the hey-ho and brouhaha around the Higgs Boson created so much media exposure for European-based and non-US-funded CERN. Coincidence ?

Re:Remarkable (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38423926)

Plans for this kind of thing would have to well predate that announcement if they've already got funding. Also, US labs were contributors on the LHC... including Fermi, which has a whole area built for lhc work. It looks like Norad in there, btw.

Re:Remarkable (1)

sbrown123 (229895) | more than 2 years ago | (#38424382)

The U.S. government didn't spend a penny on LHC. But U.S. based Fermi, and many other U.S. companies, provided equipment and help in building the LHC.

And what "brouhaha" is there about Higgs Boson? Last I checked they are still looking for its existence.

Re:Remarkable (2)

krlynch (158571) | more than 2 years ago | (#38424960)

The US government didn't spend a penny on LHC? Really? A few seconds with your favorite search engine would have dispelled that myth.

In reality, the U.S. government has contributed over $600M to date in direct and in-kind contributions, with significant support for University and National Lab groups that participate in all aspects of construction, operations, and analysis.

Re:Remarkable (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#38426266)

See?! The goverment didn't spend a penny, it spent 60 billion pennies!

Re:Remarkable (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 2 years ago | (#38425990)

There was yet another "tantalizing hints but no actual evidence" press release a few days ago. We talked about it here [slashdot.org] .

Re:Remarkable (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | more than 2 years ago | (#38433332)

"And what "brouhaha" is there about Higgs Boson? Last I checked they are still looking for its existence"

Gee, I don't know, maybe the mention of the pre-release data on *every* news show on television, radio and newspapers?

All for nothing too. A wonderful example of why there's a climate change backlash - oversell, under deliver.

Re:Remarkable (1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 2 years ago | (#38433390)

You can blame the CERN Director-General for that one. Just about everyone else thought that the press release/conference nonsense was pretty poorly handled. But when the Director-General says jump, everyone else says "how high?".

Fermilab Commercial Research (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38423684)

"By accelerating them to near the speed of light, we can collide the particle of marketing together to create new ones, and investigate the elementary structure of the advertising universe.

Recently were were able to create a high energy Bear Grylls by colliding the Geico Gecko and the T-Mobile girl. We are now actively searching for the Heineken bozon."

Cost-benefit, and for whom (2, Insightful)

Empiric (675968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38423688)

Though this seems like one of the more "worthy" recipients of the approach, this seems like another example of a "privatize profits, socialize costs" endeavor.

As the division between "public" and "private" gets increasingly hazy, shouldn't there be at least a nominal analysis of the overall economic results of this type of structure? We no longer have a common expectation that the results of public-funded science projects belong to the public, so given that "it will create (some) jobs" is something that can always be said, while discounting the jobs that could have been created by alternate use of the total capital involved--what metrics are there around what is a "good candidate" for such a public/private endeavor, other than opportunity-cost ignoring "feel good" numbers supporting arbitrary political favoritism?

This doesn't seem to even be a "Republican" versus "Democrat" issue anymore--we seem to be rushing full-speed ahead with overt corporatism, and I'm personally doubtful that this approach can be sustained with simple hand-waving as to the actual overall economic effects. If there are cases where these types of projects should be objected to, by what means could one object, given this justification "methodology" that seems not to face, nor even have the expectation of, any real critical analysis?

Re:Cost-benefit, and for whom (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38423974)

As a rough heuristic, any state wealth-redistribution program that doesn't have packs of lobbyists and AEI economists shrieking about socialism, communism, and class warfare is very likely converting your tax dollars into somebody's shareholder value more or less by design.

Wealth-redistribution plans that do have such a pack are somewhat less clear. They are less likely to be an overt screwjob; but their efficiency or efficacy may still be miserable.

Re:Cost-benefit, and for whom (1)

rmstar (114746) | more than 2 years ago | (#38425486)

As a rough heuristic, any state wealth-redistribution program that doesn't have packs of lobbyists and AEI economists shrieking about socialism, communism, and class warfare is very likely converting your tax dollars into somebody's shareholder value more or less by design.

That is true, unfortunately.

Re:Cost-benefit, and for whom: Exactly! (1)

leftover (210560) | more than 2 years ago | (#38424622)

and I am fresh out of mod points. Rats!

It seems that no government lab ever reaches end-of-life. They just keep operating even as their science base evaporates.
Eventually they become administration-only, breaking big funding pipes into smaller ones and passing them along.

Re:Cost-benefit, and for whom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38425012)

Though this seems like one of the more "worthy" recipients of the approach, this seems like another example of a "privatize profits, socialize costs" endeavor.

The same could be said of NASA. NASA does R&D into space techology and works with and licenses the results to industry.

I don't have a big problem with government funding basic research into areas that might not have immediate payback. DARPA for example funds many projects that have little or no immediate payback, some of them are kind of "out there" if you know what I mean.

It could be argued that funding projects with low probability, but high future payoff is a proper function of government.

The problem is good-old-boy funding deals like Solyndra.

applications? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38424530)

Can somebody please comment on the possible applications for this? Because other than fundamental research, I see none.

Re:applications? (1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 2 years ago | (#38433446)

Medical accelerators, materials research, heat-shrink tubing. There are a lot of possibilities for real commercial use of accelerators. TFS mentioned some 30k commercial accelerators already in use. Maybe you should ask the people running them what they are using them for. If you make them cheaper and more available, the uses can only expand.
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