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Dr Sam Aronsen – Director of Brookhaven national Labs

February 23, 2007 @ 12:00 am EST


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This morning we heard a presentation on the economic and scientific benefits of having Brookhaven National Laboratory in our backyard.

The director, Dr Sam Aronson came to LIMBA and within the fairly limited time we allot our speakers, gave us a good overview.

BNL has an annual budget of about $500 million and much of that goes to paying for high value people that contribute directly to the economy. The economic benefit of the science is enormous as well. In combination the total economic value to this region over the past 10 years has been about $10 billion.


BNL, is very diverse in the science that is done there. As the director pointed out some of the science is curiosity based and the final outcome cannot be explained because no one knows exactly where a particular area of inquiry is going to go. And while that pursuit of science is harder to explain and get funding for, it is the area of research that new ideas emanate from, according to Aronson.


Presently the lab is building a new collider and will phase out the old one when the new one is built. This is where a lot a basic research is done. The collider is able to create elements that have only existed within seconds of the “Big Bang” at the start of the universe. The practical purpose of this hard to explain, but it useful in studying things that are known to us.


The study of structure and properties of materials is important to the discovery of new materials, and is also very much a part of the labs goals.In this part of the discussion we talked about the significance of Nano Technology. According to Dr. Aronson, by being able to assemble materials at the nano level we can take materials that are known to us and cause them to behave in a way that is beneficial to new applications that would otherwise be impossible.


Creating a secure energy source for the purpose of energy independence was also discussed. We asked about the probabilities of new energy sources emerging. The director implied that he was optimistic about the long term prospects, but the short term prospects on energy reduction and independence would probably come from “bridge technologies” such as plug-in automobiles, bio-mass, solar panel efficiency improvements, and other known and improvable energy technologies. Fusion did not seem like a very promising technology, but a new and very large effort in this arena is being done on an international basis in France.


Life sciences and brain study at BNL has gotten a lot of attention from the press, and BNL scientists have been  studying and observing the functions of the brain under normal and drug effected brains. Brains of people with addictive behavior apparently has a different look to it when studied under an MRI than a brain that is not subject to addiction. 


Practical solutions to everyday problems are handled at the Lab in the Applied Science area. Better oil burners, homeland security devices, and many other developments come from this department, but the solutions are based on some “basic research” mentioned above that now are solutions looking for a place to be useful.