Richland firm to build EMSL wing

Fowler General Construction of Richland has been awarded a $4.96 million contract to build a "quiet" wing for the Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

The contract for the addition at the Department of Energy national lab in Richland is being paid for by DOE and some of its equipment will be paid for by federal economic stimulus money. Fowler expects to begin excavating later this month and finish the wing in about a year.

A 10,500-square-foot building is planned on the southwest corner of EMSL that will include eight rooms. The rooms will house high-resolution microscopes critical for research in geochemistry, microbiology, fuel cell research and catalyst research.

"It will ensure we continue to provide the advanced space and facilities required for the new level of discovery our users are hoping to achieve when they come here," said Allison Campbell, EMSL director, in a statement.

EMSL is a national user facility, attracting researchers from around the world to use its state-of-the-art scientific equipment to tackle complex science challenges.

The new wing's construction will reduce to a near-minimum the vibrations, acoustics and electromagnetics that can interfere with the performance of scientific instruments.

It is not attached to the main EMSL building to reduce vibrations. In addition, each room will have a foundation isolated from the foundations of other rooms, said John Payne, Fowler president.

The wing also will have noise-dampening materials and an air-flow dispersion system to provide uniform temperatures for each instrument room. Shielding will prevent electromagnetic interference.

"Word of the new Q-wing is creating a buzz in the research community," said Scott Lea, microscopy capability lead for EMSL, in a statement. "The quiet wing is designed specifically to meet the needs of researchers and allow cutting-edge equipment to operate with optimal resolution."

Few facilities in the world offer a comparable suite of capabilities in one place, he said.

"The ability to give researchers access to a set of new, state-of-the-art electron microscopy and scanning instrumentation in one location is significant," Lea said.