ORNL gets $95M research building

Four shovels flung dirt Tuesday morning on the former site of two World War II-era buildings at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. As rubble from the Manhattan Project buildings lay piled in the background, officials broke ground for a $95 million laboratory.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry and U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., joined ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia and Johnny Moore, ORNL site office manager for DOE, for the ceremony.

The Translational Research Capability facility will be built near the center of ORNL’s main campus. It will include about 100,000 square feet of space, similar to the nearby Chemicals and Materials Sciences building, completed in 2011.

About three-quarters of the building will have open-plan modular areas holding various high-tech equipment and inert environment labs, while the rest will be office and support space, according to a DOE news release.

Some labs had to move to make room for the new Frontier supercomputer, also announced Tuesday morning, Zacharia said. The new building will include material science and computer labs, and areas designed for researchers working on quantum computing.

“It will be state of the art in quantum information science,” said Raphael Pooser, senior scientist. Quantum computers need lab space carefully shielded from environmental factors such as dust and vibration, he said. Pooser and his colleagues have lacked that until now, but in the new lab they will be able to conduct higher-precision experiments.

“That’s what quantum information systems need right now,” said Michael McGuire, another senior scientist who will use the new building. The top-flight lab facilities also will enable ORNL to attract the best researchers, he said.

The open lab plans are intended to allow material scientists and computer researchers to work more closely together. It will help to have potential collaborators together in one environment, senior scientist Athena Sefat said. Researchers will be able to discuss mutual issues easily and quickly, she said.

All three scientists said they’re excited to see the new building completed. It’s scheduled to be ready in 2021 and will house 60 to 70 employees, according to Morgan McCorkle, ORNL media relations manager.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Jim Gaines

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Published May 9, 2019