History of the Louisiana Accelerator Center

The development of LAC as a major research center had its beginnings in the mid 1970’s when The University of Southwestern Louisiana (USL, now UL Lafayette) made two surplus property acquisitions that were important in leading to the formation of the Acadiana Research Laboratory (ARL).  The first acquisition, a High Voltage engineering Corporation Model KN 3 MV van de Graaff accelerator system valued at about one million dollars, was obtained from the NASA's Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston, Texas.  The second acquisition, the complete contents of a machine shop and a metrology shop, were acquired from NASA's Michaud fabrication facility in New Orleans.  The moving costs for bringing this equipment to the USL campus was minimal because it was accomplished by USL physics faculty and staff. The UL Lafayette Research Office and the Physics Department played pivotal roles in these acquisitions. Since no facility existed where they could be installed, the accelerator system and machine shop equipment were temporarily stored in several locations on campus.

In 1976 a 4000 sq. ft. bare metal building was constructed on Reinhardt Drive, then Souvenir Gate, on a piece of UL Lafayette property for $70,000.This property was used by the university dairy farm to graze cattle. A group of USL physics faculty and staff along with many students proceeded to do the interior carpentry, electrical, and plumbing work necessary to set up an unshielded accelerator room, lavatory, office, and shop area. The KN accelerator was installed and made operational for low energy protons and a shop established using the Michaud equipment and additional equipment provided by the offices of the Quality Machine and Pipe Company, currently the Quality Machine Shop, Inc.

In 1981 a shielded accelerator building was constructed at a cost of $680,000 and joined with the existing metal structure. The KN accelerator was moved into the shielded structure and the machine shop moved into the accelerator's former location. About this time, the University obtained the Lafayette Charity Hospital property. Prior to the demolition of the hospital building a group of USL physics faculty and staff disinfected and removed the furniture from the hospital's bacteriology and chemistry laboratories.  This furniture was stored in the newly completed accelerator building while the aforementioned group, with student and maintenance carpentry help, built, electrified, plumbed, painted and installed the Charity Hospital laboratory furniture in six rooms at the end of the metal structure adjacent to the shielded facility.

These rooms functioned as a computer room, an instrument room, a chemistry laboratory, two office/laboratories, a kitchen, meeting room and electronics shop. A High Voltage Engineering Corporation Model JN 1 MV Van de Graaff accelerator system was obtained in 1982 from the University of Virginia, installed in the ARL target room and used as an instructional tool for students.

In 1984 a laboratory trailer, which had been used by a laboratory research team and several additional temporary staff and students, was obtained from the U.S. Department of Energy and added to the ARL site. The trailer was used as a laboratory and also provided faculty and student office space but was removed from the site in 1995.

In 1985, with the initiation of the Louisiana Quality Support Fund (LEQSF), a plan was developed by the ARL research staff to establish a complete ion beam research facility.  The research equipment initially envisioned for this facility included a high energy ion accelerator for materials analysis and modification, an ion microprobe system for small scale materials analysis and modification, and a low energy ion implanter system for materials modification.

By FY90, two LEQSF grants were obtained to acquire a high energy accelerator and an analysis chamber with associated detectors. This new accelerator was installed in the site originally occupied by the KN accelerator, which was sold at auction in November 2000. In 1993 a low energy ion implanter system was obtained from IBM and Louisiana State University and installed at then Acadianal Research Laboratory (ARL) and in FY 97 an ion microprobe system was funded by LEQSF (Louisiana Education and Quality Support Fund) and became operational in FY01. The funding for these major systems was obtained primarily from LEQSF funding but significant matching contributions were provided by the University.

The U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) also contributed significantly through a grant that began in FY94 and was completed in FY01.

In 1999 the name of the University officially changed to University of Louisiana at Lafayette and in October 2001, the name of the center was officially changed to the Louisiana Accelerator Center (LAC) to more appropriately embody the unique research interests and capabilities of a facility that has become one of Louisiana's premier research centers.

In 2001, LAC acquired a JEOL 840 scanning electron microscope from the University of Minnesota. In 2003 funding was obtained to acquire an additional set of triplet lenses and a JEOL 6460LV scanning electron microscope to be added to the present microprobe system for the development of a unique (patented) sextuplet focusing system for high energy ions. Since 1990, funding at LAC for ion beam research and related equipment has exceeded $6.3 million.