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University Team Beats National Lab for $500 Million Atom-Probing Machine

A new $500 million nuclear physics facility will be built at Michigan State University in East Lansing, the U.S. Department of Energy announced today. Known as the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, the straight-shot linear accelerator will pump out beams of fleeting radioactive nuclei for studies in nuclear physics that could help unravel the origins of scores of elements and give physicists a much deeper understanding of how atoms work.

Michigan State's success ends a David-versus-Goliath competition that pitted a team from the university's plucky National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory against one from Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. Michigan State's lab is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation with 300 employees and a $20 million annual budget. Argonne is a giant multipurpose facility with a staff of 2800 and a $530 million budget. Some observers thought that Argonne's greater resources and DOE connections would play into its favor.

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