ORNL Neutron Project Will Benefit UT (380)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory would give faculty and students at the University of Tennessee access to the finest research facility of its kind, UT officials said Thursday.

 UT President Joe Johnson said the proposed $1.3 billion project will be one of the most important in the university’s 50-year relationship with ORNL.

“With ready access to the research capabilities of the best neutron source anywhere, we can attract and retain more world-class faculty,” Johnson said.

 Scientists use neutrons, which the Oak Ridge project will produce when construction is completed in 2004, to study the properties of materials.

“The students and faculty in at least seven departments at UT-Knoxville will directly benefit from the project,” Johnson said.

Approximately $30 million in research funding annually comes to UT through its ties with ORNL, Johnson said.

 UT departments that have connections to neutron science include chemistry; physics; geological sciences; biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology; microbiology; materials science; and chemical engineering, Johnson said.

Vice President Al Gore visited ORNL Wednesday to announce Clinton administration plans to include $157 million in the 1999 federal budget to begin construction on the project. Congress has already appropriated $16 million in planning money for the job.

 UT-Knoxville Chancellor Bill Snyder said the project fits well with campus priorities.

 “Neutron science and materials research already are important areas for us and they have a high priority for future investment,” Snyder said.

 In a related effort, UT and ORNL have asked for $8 million in state support to build a headquarters at Oak Ridge for the Joint Institute for Neutron Science, which will encourage corporate partnerships with the research facility.

 “We are optimistic Gov. Don Sundquist will include the funding in his budget recommendations to the General Assembly for next year,” Johnson said.

 Dr. Lee Magid, UT chemistry professor and a key faculty liaison with ORNL on the project, said scientists use neutrons to probe the positions and motions of molecules and atoms in materials ranging from laundry detergents to car parts.

 Neutron science also has applications in medical diagnostic tests, forensic science, and art, Magid said.

 There are existing neutron sources at two national laboratories — Argonne in Illinois and Los Alamos in New Mexico — but neither produces enough of the particles to meet the research demand, Magid said.

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 Contact: Dr. Lee Magid (423-974-4228), Dr. Joe Johnson (423-974-2241)