Argonne National Laboratory


Argonne National Laboratory is located in the Downers Grove Township, just a few miles from Chicago, Illinois. It was the first science research laboratory established in the United States when it opened on July 1, 1946 for full experimentation. The laboratory was initially formed mainly for Enrico Fermi’s work on the nuclear reactor and development of nuclear power. 1,700 acres of land house the massive facility on which over twenty different buildings are situated and contributing to research every day.

Brief History

Originally Argonne National Laboratory was known as the Metallurgical Laboratory. It was the home of the first nuclear reactor named Chicago Pile – 1. The laboratory was named after Argonne Forest, a large timberland in France where an important battle in World War I took place. Elements 99 (Einsteinium) and 100 (Fermium) were both discovered in the early days of the lab and named after important scientists in the field.


Management at Argonne is fairly complex. The University of Chicago, Argonne LLC manages the laboratory and supplies most of the staff. However, the United States Department of Energy also plays a large part at Argonne. This is the reason that a large percentage of the new research that is being completed at the laboratory revolves around energy and the issues that accompany it. There are currently 3,200 employees working under the director of Argonne, Eric Issacs. Issacs is a faculty member at the University of Chicago whose job doubles at the lab and at the university.

Nuclear Research

Some nuclear research machines at the Argonne National Laboratory include the Advanced Photon Source (APS) and the linear accelerator. The APS is a synchrotron radiation light source that produces high-brilliance (high-brightness) x-ray beams required to take pictures of nuclear reactions and experiments. This laboratory is known for having the brightest x-ray beams in the United States. Argonne also combines the forces of a linear accelerator and electromagnetic ring to accelerate particles. The linear accelerator accelerates particles to 99.999% the speed of light and then it is pushed through a booster injector and accelerated around an electromagnetic ring at 99.999999% the speed of light. The laboratory is currently working on research that shows how particles behave in highly radioactive situations. This will be applied when humans begin to land and live on Mars in less than ten years where radioactive waves are not blocked as much by atmosphere.

Ongoing Projects

One of the large projects being researched at Argonne currently is in relation to Integral Fast Reactors (IFR), also known as the fourth generation reactors. In these reactors there is no neutron moderator and the uranium or plutonium fuel can actually be recycled and reused at the same facility where it is used. Metal alloy is used as fuel for the reactors and liquid sodium is used as a coolant. These types of reactors are much more energy efficient, cost less to run, and ultimately will change the future of reactor technology. Since Argonne National Laboratory was the first to come up with the idea and create a small representation of the reactor, it gets the credit for coming up with the generation four design.

Another project currently in the works right now involves the eXtreme MATerials beamline (XMAT). This is an upgrade to the Advanced Photon Source system for producing and gathering information about nuclear reactions much more quickly. Nuclear fuel types can be heated and cooled in this facility at Argonne much faster than they would cool in a regular nuclear reactor, allowing for faster research and analysis.

Undergraduate Internships

There are two prominent research opportunities for undergraduate students from around the United States. The first is called the Department of Energy Summer Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) and is sponsored by the United States Department of Energy. During this internship, undergraduate students will complete 10 weeks of research and forty hours each week will be spent in the laboratory experimenting. To be eligible for the program, students must be full-time undergraduate university attending persons. They must have also completed one full year of coursework before applying, have a 3.0+ grade point average, and present a full transcript of their collegiate academic career. Within the Summer Undergraduate Laboratory Internship, the advanced nuclear energy systems program would be most interesting to a student going into the nuclear industry. A presentation and essay must be completed and presented at the end of the internship in front of a board and the best ones will be published. Stipened for the students includes $500 each week plus additional money for housing. Travel is included within stipend and students are allowed one trip to their home over the course of the ten-week internship.

The other top internship at the lab is known as the Student Research Participation Program (SRPP). Apart from being sponsored by the Argonne National Laboratory itself, rather than the United States Department of Energy, the only difference between the summer internship programs is the fact that the SRPP does not require a transcript to be submitted and the applicant may have completed any amount of coursework in their collegiate career prior to applying.



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