Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is in the early stages of planning for what may be its next large construction project at its Richland campus — an estimated $90 million research building.
The Department of Energy laboratory has received initial approval for what is being called the Energy Sciences Capability Project until a permanent name is picked.
The new building would be used for fundamental research in chemistry and material science, including characterizing material at the atomic scale, said PNNL director Steven Ashby at work session of the state House Technology and Economic Development Committee.
“We have a huge opportunity,” he said.
Ashby is asking the state to contribute $8 million for scientific instruments to equip the new building and help leverage what he estimated to be a roughly $90 million investment by the federal government in the proposed building.
DOE has put no price tag on the project at this early stage, but is following federal requirements for a new facility costing $10 million to $100 million.
The DOE national lab has been adding about a building a year in recent years. But they have been smaller facilities, costing about $10 million or less each.
We need cutting-edge space for cutting-edge science.
Roger Snyder, manager of the Pacific Northwest Site Office
Work is underway now on a collaboration center, where small and large meetings can be held, and a new 26,000-square-foot office building is close to opening.
The Energy Sciences Capability Project could be about 100,000 square feet and provide labs and work stations for about 150 PNNL staff, as well as a few dozen collaborators.
Work in the proposed facility is planned to lead to the development of advanced catalysts and materials for use in new energy and transportation technologies, new industrial catalysts and advances in clean energy, among other innovations, according to PNNL.
“We need cutting-edge space for cutting-edge science,” said Roger Snyder, manager of the DOE Pacific Northwest Site Office.
Advanced microscopes, for example, are very sensitive to vibrations when they are looking at materials at the nanoscale or smaller and may require specialized building accommodations.
Washington state is being asked to pay for two sophisticated pieces of equipment, each costing about $4 million.
- A specific type of next generation electron microscope.
- A state-of-the-art nuclear magnetic resonance machine, similar to those used for medical magnetic resonance imaging.
PNNL needs modern facilities to attract the best and brightest scientists to Eastern Washington and to retain its researchers, said Russ Warren, federal project director for the proposed project.
Ashby told state representatives that the project would generate many construction jobs in the Tri-Cities as it is built, but more importantly would attract “a steady stream of high-paying research jobs.”
The state is being asked to pay for two sophisticated pieces of equipment, each costing about $4 million.
One is a specific type of next generation electron microscope and the other is a state-of-the-art nuclear magnetic resonance machine, similar to those used for medical magnetic resonance imaging.
They would be used for “peering into materials at the atomic level so we can understand their structure,” Ashby said. Scientists would use the knowledge to design materials with specific properties.
The lab has demonstrated the need for the new facility, the first step in getting the project approved.
This year work is planned to create a high-level conceptual design for the building. If that is approved, a more detailed plan and a better estimated cost and a schedule will be prepared.
The start of construction is several years away if Congress approves money for the project.