Today at Berkeley Lab

Director’s Update on the Advanced Light Source Upgrade

Below is an update from Berkeley Lab Director Michael Witherell on the Advanced Light Source Upgrade:

witherellcropped2The DOE’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES) charged its Advisory Committee (BESAC) to evaluate the proposed upgrades to the extraordinary network of x-ray and neutron facilities at national labs. The results of that assessment were made public at a meeting of the BES Advisory Committee last Thursday, and I wanted to let you know what that means for us at Berkeley Lab. The headline is that we received some very good news.

For over 20 years the Advanced Light Source (ALS) has led the world in enabling great science with soft x-rays, which includes x-rays with energy less than about 2 kiloelectron volt (keV). Our proposed Advanced Light Source Upgrade (ALS-U) will take advantage of revolutionary advances in synchrotron design to increase the coherent flux of soft x-rays by factors of 100-1000. (A coherent beam is one that acts like a continuous wave, which is ideal for many classes of experiments.) This high coherent flux will make it possible to resolve features and interactions on the nanometer scale and will allow real-time observation of chemical processes.

The BES Advisory Committee initiated this study at their meeting on February 11, setting an expert subcommittee to work on an extremely tight schedule in order to make the final report last week. The ALS-U team responded to a very detailed request for information in a matter of weeks. I joined the project team to present the ALS-U plans to the subcommittee at a meeting on April 14. We said that this upgrade would make the ALS the leading facility in the world for coherent soft x-rays for the foreseeable future. We argued that this upgrade is “absolutely central” to maintaining the strength of the BES network of x-ray light sources. We emphasized that this transformation of the facility could be done for modest cost and that we were ready to start the project. The presentations were made by me, Roger Falcone, Steve Kevan, Dave Robin and Ken Chow. Howard Padmore and Christoph Steier joined the speakers for the Q&A session, and Don DePaolo worked with the team to prepare for the review. The entire ALS-U team did a brilliant job of presenting the case and in responding to the subcommittee’s questions.

BESAC Chair John Hemminger presented the report to the full committee on Thursday. Here are some excerpts:

“For an extended period of time the ALS has been a world-class premier soft x-ray user facility. The successful development of multi-bend achromat lattices as demonstrated at MAX IV provide an opportunity to upgrade the ALS such that it will remain the world leading facility in this area of science for the foreseeable future…. The coherence of the beam will make possible powerful new experiments.”

“The subcommittee considers the ALS-U project as ‘absolutely central’ and
‘ready to initiate construction’.”

BESAC voted unanimously to accept the subcommittee report.

This very positive recommendation is extremely important to ALS and to Berkeley Lab. The next step in the process toward establishing a construction project is when the Department of Energy approves a Mission Need Statement, a process called Critical Decision (CD-0) approval. We hope that we will be given such approval in the next few months. This would authorize us to proceed with conceptual planning and design using operating funds. Developing a conceptual design and cost range for a project of this scale, with cost expected to be in the range of $300 million, requires the focused effort of a large and well-organized team. We are now preparing an organization designed to execute the conceptual design phase for ALS-U as efficiently and effectively as possible as funding allows when CD-0 approval is given.

The ALS-U will be the highest priority project at the Laboratory, and will draw its scientific and engineering leadership from the Accelerator Technology and Applied Physics (ATAP) Division and the Engineering Division, in addition to the ALS itself. I am very pleased that we have taken this first critical step in making the ALS upgrade project a reality. This will be the largest facilities project the Lab has executed since the original ALS was built, and it will insure another 20+ years for ALS in the top rank of x-ray science.