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Old Dominion University's College of Sciences Major Instrumentation Center (COSMIC@ODU), which will take shape this week on the first floor of the Oceanography and Physics Building, represents a giant step forward for an institution that has publicly stated its goal to become a Top 100 public research university.

The facility will have state-of-the-art equipment and a director, Patrick G. Hatcher, who is one of the nation's most respected geochemists and is renowned within his discipline for his use of advanced analytical research instruments.

Here are some facts about COSMIC's advanced instrumentation:
*Three main mass spectrometers will be among the initial instrumentation. These instruments can determine physical, chemical and even biological properties of compounds by generating a mass spectrum representing the masses of components of a sample. Scientists can determine the structure of molecules or complex mixtures from the weights obtained from a mass spectrometer.

*The main COSMIC mass spectrometers will be: a time-of-flight mass spectrometer, a matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization mass spectrometer and a 12-Tesla superconducting Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometer. The latter instrument is currently the highest field instrument of its type that is commercially available. Only one other university research facility in the United States has one.

*The Earth's magnetic field is about 0.25 gauss; the12-Tesla superconducting magnet's field is 120,000 gauss. The magnet, which was manufactured in England and weighs almost 4 tons, is a horizontal cylinder about 5 feet in diameter and 5 feet long. It is a coil wrapped with superconducting wire.

*The 12-Tesla magnet is designed with active shielding that allows minimal stray magnetic field. The safe line for people with pacemakers is about 8 feet from the center of the magnet. Without the active shielding, this safe line would extend about 30 feet from the center of the magnet.

*A 400 MHz nuclear magnet resonance (NMR) spectrometer will be an important COSMIC instrument. NMR instruments, which are much like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines used in medicine, can be used to deduce chemical structural information. Hatcher is particularly noted for his innovative use of NMR in geochemistry. The magnet in COSMIC's NMR instrument is rated at 9.4 Tesla.

*Bruker Daltonics manufactured the 12-Tesla mass spectrometer for ODU and an affiliated company, Bruker Biospin, manufactured the NMR instrument.
*Two Bruker Daltonics engineers will be on hand Thursday when riggers move the 12-Tesla mass spectrometer and NMR instrument from large trucks into the Oceanography and Physics Building, where COSMIC will be located temporarily. COSMIC will be relocated to a new wing of the building when it is completed next year, and Bruker engineers will return to assist in moving the equipment.

*The Bruker engineers will accomplish over about 10 days the initial cooling of the magnets to a superconducting temperature of about minus 450 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, there is no resistance to dissipate the current (about 230 Amps) and the current and resulting magnetic field continue indefinitely as long as the magnet stays cold. The initial cooling involves bringing the magnet down to about minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit with the use of liquid nitrogen. Then, more expensive liquid helium is used to cool the magnet farther to minus 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Once operational, the systems will have to be topped off with helium every four months and with liquid nitrogen roughly every month.

*The large, open room to be used by COSMIC will have two operating work stations and two processing work stations, with a computer at each work station. Two other computer units will be in the facility.

*According to the College of Sciences, COSMIC analysis will have applications to: novel chemical synthesis, nano-materials science, proteomics, biogeosciences, experimental verification of modeling predictions, electronics, thin film and novel materials research, ocean sciences and biomedical sciences.

This article was posted on: February 2, 2006

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