NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Nuclear Science Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame is getting a big upgrade, literally. A new nuclear accelerator is being installed and the building construction should be finished by the end of the December.
The accelerator is almost thirty feet tall, about eight feet in diameter, and weighs almost 18,000 pounds.
Construction started in the summer, and the empty tank was brought in by a crane and placed in the center of an exciting building.
"Beginning in the middle of an active office, research and teaching building with the noise and the construction, I’m sure there will be a lot of people who are happy we're finished,” said Edward Stech, Associate Physics Professor of Practice.
After the tank was in place a high density concrete tower was built around the accelerator as a radiation shield. It stands forty feet high.
During the next phase of construction the physics department, including everyone from undergraduates to faculty, will help to build the core of the accelerator.
"We’ll bring all the parts in through the top. We'll crawl through in the access points on the doors and start from the bottom and build up the glass and metal column support structure and finally putting the ion source at the top,” said Stech.
This phase of the construction will start in January.
"The accelerator implementation is a five week process. I would guess we would be finished by end of February, then we will start learning how to operate the machine,” said Physics Professor Michael Wiescher and director of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics.
Notre Dame has four particle accelerators on campus. This one’s primary focus is research on stars.
"Our accelerator is primarily for the astrophysics, studying, simulating the center of stars, simulating how the elements have been formed since the beginning of the universe,” said Wiescher.
The accelerator is being funded by the National Science Foundation, which is the first nuclear accelerator it’s funded in almost thirty years.
The department said this technology improvement on campus will keep the university on the map for nuclear research for years to come.
"Notre Dame’s Nuclear Lab is an international center and this one [accelerator] guarantees that is stays an international center for some time to come,” said Wiescher.