US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and local lawmakers visited Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont on Monday to celebrate the completion of the new facility that will allow a closer look at clean energy sources such as electric car batteries and nuclear energy materials.
“I am honored to be here and I am honored to be here representing an administration that believes so strongly in science,” Granholm said during her visit.
The new building is part of an $815 million upgrade to the lab’s massive X-ray light source, called the Advanced Photon Source, which uses energy stored in a ring large enough to fit into the Wrigley field to serve as a giant microscope.
It’s a user-managed facility, which means that more than 5,000 scientists from around the world use X-rays each year to look at internal materials at both the molecular and atomic levels. In one example, scientists are using technology to screen viruses – including COVID-19 – to understand their molecular structure and to develop vaccines.
“The fact that 5,000 scientists came here to try to solve these problems — it’s a gift to Illinois, it’s a gift to America, it’s a small gift to the planet,” Granholm said.
Once completed, the upgrade will produce beams 500 times brighter than the current machine, allowing scientists to look more closely at materials and processes. The new structure commemorated on Monday will house two new X-ray lines, as well as a state-of-the-art lab for doping materials.
“Both Rays will help us maintain America’s scientific leadership in many areas of research, and help solve some of the world’s most pressing scientific challenges,” said Paul Kearns, director of Argonne. “The Doping Materials Laboratory will greatly improve our ability to understand how radiation affects the structure of materials, such as materials to enhance the performance of the next generation of nuclear power plants.”
U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and local members of Congress celebrated the construction of the new Long Beamline Building at the Argonne National Lab on Monday. The facility is part of an $815 million upgrade to the lab’s massive X-ray light source, called the Advanced Photon Source.
– Jenny Weeden | Staff photographer
While X-rays are used to look at everything from infrastructure materials to new drugs to the brains of mice, a major focus in the climate world is creating batteries that last longer, charge faster and hold more energy.
Granholm added on Monday that tools like the advanced photon source are key to building ways to “fix our planet,” such as creating better batteries for electric cars, identifying more durable and efficient materials for solar panels, and finding storage capacity that could make more solar power. Easily managed.
“At the Department of Energy, we are really obsessed with how we get to net zero by 2050, and how to get 100% clean electricity by 2035,” Granholm said. “All you have to do is open the newspapers today and see thousands of people all over the planet dying from these extreme weather phenomena that we still see. They are accelerating and getting more and more intense. If we don’t speed ourselves up – the task of discovering ways to get to net zero and clean electricity by 100% – then we will eliminate it.”
U.S. Representative Bill Foster, a Naperville Democrat who represents Illinois’ 11th District, visited Argonne on Monday with U.S. Representative Bobby Rush of Chicago. Foster, who serves on the Committee on Science, Space and Technology and is the only Ph.D. The long-term basic research being conducted at Argonne will have lasting benefits in the future, the congressional physicist said.
“The most important thing that is being done in labs like here is the long-term research that makes things possible not five years from now, but 20 years from now,” he said.
Foster added that the research conducted at Argonne to continuously test samples from nuclear reactors is of particular interest in Illinois, where we rely on nuclear power for the majority of our electricity.
“When we try to extend the life of these nuclear plants that we depend on, one of the major issues is the materials,” Foster said. “This ability to really look into the details of what it means to be safe is critical to the future of nuclear energy.”
• Jenny Whiden is a member of Report for America covering climate change and the environment for the Daily Herald. To help support her work with a tax-deductible donation, see https://www.reportforamerica.org/newsrooms/daily-herald-4/