September 28, 2010

ERL Project Continues With Planning

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Despite concerns by local Ithacans that construction on Cornell’s Energy Recovery Linac Project would exacerbate city traffic congestion, the University has said that it will continue to move forward with the project, hopefully as soon as 2013.The project involves both doubling the length of Cornell’s current underground particle accelerator and the construction of a $500 million facility that researchers say would make Ithaca home to the most powerful X-ray technology in the world.“The better beams at the ERL, compared to our present 30-year-old storage ring source, will allow us to do new things that will have a real technological impact to our society not only in Tompkins County, but to all of America and the world,” Prof. Donald Bilderback, applied and engineering physics, said.The main parts of the ERL, or what Bilderback described as its “heart,” are the linear accelerators, which total 640 meters in length. These linear accelerators are what will permit the ERL to grant researchers access to visual representations through X-ray analysis of the inner workings of particles the length of a mere nanometer, such as nanoparticles, viruses, cells and catalysts.The project could also shed light on technologies for a sustainable future, Bilderback said, by furthering research on fuel cell technology.  Worldwide, only 81 particle accelerators exist, and only 27 are stationed in North America. Currently, the largest particle accelerator is housed in Switzerland. According to a list compiled by the Physics Institute at the University of Bonn, Cornell is the only Ivy League institution to own a particle accelerator.Particle accelerators such as the CHESS, Cornell’s current X-ray source, have such immense capabilities that it is hard to grasp the magnitude of the abilities the ERL will possess.“The collective scope of the projects going on at CHESS is immense — dozens of different techniques investigating everything from tiny proteins to the gritty details of how metal compounds structure themselves to uncovering paintings that were lost underneath new paintings,” Robin Baur grad said.Though some citizens of Ithaca expressed their concern to The Ithaca Journal that the ERL project will lead to inconvenient traffic jams, Bilderback said, “[The project organizers] have stayed clear of all major campus buildings for our underground work.”However, Darby Kiley, a member of the town of Ithaca’s planning department, noted that “one lane of Judd Falls Road will be closed during construction.”The “subway-style tunnel” is to be burrowed underneath of the Cornell “B” parking lot near the Veterinary School, and the traffic increase is predicted to be comparable to that caused by the new Life Sciences building construction on central campus, or the Physical Sciences building soon to be completed, Bilderback said.According to The Ithaca Journal, construction of the new facility will take a total of five years. The Ithaca Planning Board’s notations from a September 21 meeting regarding the project document the need for the excavation of a hole 14 feet in diameter and up to one kilometer deep.The Town of Ithaca’s Planning Board noted that the construction will not begin any earlier than 2013, with an estimated completion date no sooner than 2019. The extensive funding required drags out the long timeline for the project.The ERL’s funding must first be discussed with the National Science Foundation, and details concerning construction noise, as well as spoils disposal, must be established with the Ithaca Planning Board before any further action is taken.“The project would not begin until 2013 because funding might not be secured until that time, not because of the Town’s approval process,” Darby Kiley, the Ithaca planner, said.

Original Author: Kayla DeLeon