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Originally appeared in Tuesday, January 04, 2005 Oak Ridger
'New Era' for ORNL predicted
By Ellen Rogers|Oak Ridger Staff
The new year holds great potential for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In fact, director Jeff Wadsworth reported that 2005 just may be the most important year since the lab was built in 1942.
"This year we will be moving from a construction phase into a new era that will use our remarkable new buildings to attract world-class people and programs to Oak Ridge," Wadsworth said. "We have transformed the appearance of the lab, which will be helpful in recruiting. We're hoping to start negotiations soon."
One of the year's biggest events for the lab will be preparing for the opening of the $1.4 billion Spallation Neutron Source. The "world's biggest science project" began in 1999 and is approximately 88 percent complete.
Wadsworth said a second target chamber, which will allow biological structures to be studied more explicitly, is anticipated in the next six to 10 years. The SNS's most immediate challenge, however, will be the transition from its construction to its operation.
"Thousands of people want to use it every year," said Billy Stair, director of ORNL communications and community outreach. "Determining which projects will have priority will be an enormous challenge."
ORNL won a nationwide competition last summer to build the world's largest unclassified computer, which will be located in a $72 million facility that opened last year.
"It's actually three facilities fused into one," Stair explained. "The computer, which will be available to universities, industry and other national labs, will be housed in the Center for Computational Sciences."
In April, the $65 million Center for Nanophase Materials Science is set to open. The local facility will be the first of its kind in the Department of Energy System, leading the nanotechnology field that designs materials at the molecular level.
Nanotechnology is the "coming wave in world scientific communities," Stair said.
Located adjacent to the SNS, the center will have high-quality equipment that is valued at roughly half the center's cost.
ORNL also recently opened the Advanced Materials Characterization Laboratory, which houses an electron microscope that broke the world's resolution record at 0.6 angstroms (units used in measuring the length of light waves). The facility was built especially for the microscope, which has strict requirements for sound and vibration.
"The lab was built for around $6 million," Wadsworth said. "Nonetheless, it's still setting world records."
Along with ORNL, Wadsworth predicts a major transition in 2005 for science in general.
"The future is going to include people bringing sciences in different areas - biology, nanotechnology, computer science - together."
ORNL's annual State of the Laboratory report is tentatively set for April.