State, feds come together for new Fermilab research center

Fermilab broke ground Friday on a project it hopes will lead the way in developing particle accelerator technology uses for industry and commerce.

The Illinois Accelerator Research Center is funded by the Department of Energy and the state.

“This is a more direct step to societal impact than merely waiting around” for the industrialization of uses to come about, laboratory director Pier Oddone said.

State Rep. Mike Fortner of West Chicago helped get funding for the center. The state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity announced Friday it will contribute $20 million of Illinois Jobs Now! capital funding for design and construction of a new building.

Fortner, a particle physicist who has worked on the DZero experiment at Fermilab, was beaming Friday.

He said he is often asked by nonscientists, “What good comes out of this stuff at Fermilab.” He tells them about the medical, energy and industrial applications that are a byproduct of the basic science research conducted there, such as proton beam therapy for cancer patients.

With the IARC, “ ... Here is an opportunity to really use (the laboratory’s) capabilities” for business applications he believes will create and sustain jobs in Illinois.

“I am so delighted to have been part of the process to make that happen,” Fortner said.

Work on utilities has already begun for the 48,000-square-foot building, which will wrap around part of the orange Collider Detector Facility building.

About half of that will be office space. The DOE is spending $13 million to refurbish the CDF building.

Worldwide, there are more than 30,000 accelerators in use, in industry, medicine, security, defense and scientific applications. Products processed, treated or inspected by particle beams have an estimated annual value of more than $500 billion, according to a prepared statement released by Fermilab.

“In Illinois we understand the importance of investing in cutting-edge technologies, which not only boosts our economy, but also secures our role as a major competitor in the global marketplace,” Gov. Quinn said in a prepared statement. “The best minds in the world are right here, and today we are investing in our future by ensuring that the latest groundbreaking particle research activities will continue to come from Illinois.”

Work is expected to be finished in 2013.

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