ITHACA, N.Y. — A $15 million grant from New York will help upgrade a high-tech facility at Cornell University, and in turn boost manufacturing businesses and bring more high-paying technology jobs to the region.

The grant was celebrated Wednesday at Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source, or CHESS. With the award from Empire State Development, Cornell will be able to improve the facility and boost research. The project, CHESS-U, will help retain 150 existing jobs and is expected to create about 100 new high-paying, highly specialized science and technology jobs in the region.

“With this award, New York State is recognizing the importance of leveraging federal funds to serve the dual goals of academic research and economic development,” Cornell University President Martha Pollack said.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul announces the $15 million grant for CHESS. Kelsey O’Connor/Ithaca Voice
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul announces the $15 million grant for CHESS. Kelsey O’Connor/Ithaca Voice

Circling 40 feet under Alumni Field at Cornell is a synchrotron particle accelerator that produces high-energy, high-power X-ray beams. It is one of five in the world that offers such state-of-the-art synchrotron radiation instruments used in research in physics, chemistry, biology and other areas. More than 1,000 scientists visit CHESS each year for research.

The facility upgrade will not just benefit Cornell, it will also benefit businesses in the Southern Tier, including Advanced Design Consulting in Lansing. ADC is a Cornell spinoff that manufactures devices for accelerators and labs around the world.

“We are working very hard to put the Southern Tier on the map as a world leader in this industry but also in clean energy and technology and so many other spaces, and we’re being successful,” Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said during her visit to CHESS. “People are starting to recognize that this is the place to come to be educated, but also to stay and live. And that to me is what this is all about.”

Diagram that shows the Cornell Electron Storage Ring. Photo provided by Cornell University

Hochul said she considers the “brain drain” — where young people leave New York for jobs — plugged up.

“People are now staying because we have jobs for them,” Hochul said.

Ritchie Patterson, director of the Cornell Laboratory for Accelerator-Based Sciences and Education and the Center for Bright Beams, said CHESS and Cornell are uniquely positioned in the Eastern United States to create a nucleus for advanced manufacturing jobs and companies. She also said the grant will help foster more public, private partnerships between CHESS and the Southern Tier.

“We provide unique X-ray facilities for researchers across the United States, and in fact around the globe. And that enables their research for studying materials, environmental science and the discovery of new pharmaceuticals for human health,” Patterson said.

About 1,200 people visit CHESS each year to use the X-rays, Patterson said.

“What this upgrade is doing is allowing us to maintain that world leadership, but also to share that technology with local companies so that they develop advanced manufacturing capabilities that they can then share out to the wider world,” Patterson said.

With the grant, Cornell will upgrade the X-ray source, which will require partial reconstruction of the particle accelerator. The upgrade will allow them to produce X-rays that are 1,000 times brighter. They will also improve optics and build new experimental stations for scientists. In doing these upgrades, new technology is invented along the way, Patterson explained. To build the new parts, Cornell has commissioned regional companies like Advanced Design Consulting in Lansing.

“They do that and of course that gives them a new thing they can add to their catalog, a new direction they can take that company, and we’re seeing that,” Patterson said.

There are more than 20 manufacturing companies in the Southern Tier that have helped manufacture components for CHESS-U, Alex Deyhim, of Advanced Design Consulting in Lansing, said. Deyhim said creating a component for CHESS-U has led to international business opportunities for ADC. He said after delivering two lead hutches, the company has received multiple requests, including one from Brazilian Synchrotron, which has the potential to bring $34 million in revenue.

In addition to the $15 million grant, given through the Southern Tier Soaring Upstate Revitalization Initiative, the National Science Foundation is providing CHESS $66 million to continue to operate as a national user facility during the upgrade.

CORRECTION — An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the National Science Foundation was providing support for $80 million in upgrades. 

Featured image: Ritchie Patterson, director of CHESS, discusses the planned upgrade for the accelerator standing near a component that will be installed. 

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.