The 3.8-kilometer circumference ring of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider is...

The 3.8-kilometer circumference ring of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider is shown in this aerial view of Brookhaven National Laboratory's north campus.  Credit: Brookhaven National Lab

New York officials on Tuesday released the first installment of a $100 million grant to help start construction of a $3 billion supercollider on the Brookhaven National Laboratory campus in Upton.

The Empire State Development grant — one of the first major outlays connected to the project since it was awarded to Brookhaven in January 2020 — will fund design and construction of the first four buildings connected to the electron-ion collider, a next-generation atom-smasher that scientists believe will help them develop a better understanding of life's smallest building blocks, such as gluons and quarks.

The state on Tuesday released $100,000 for the project, with more funding expected over the next four years, lab spokesman Pete Genzer said.

The remaining funding for the project — expected to cost between $1.7 billion and $2.8 billion — is expected to be paid incrementally over the next nine years by the federal Department of Energy, which owns the laboratory, Genzer said.

The state's announcement coincided with a visit to the lab Tuesday by federal Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, who said the grant was the biggest investment made by a state government in a science project.

“This is a big win for Long Island residents,” including hundreds of union construction workers who will build the collider, Granholm told several dozen dignitaries during a ceremony at the lab.

She said more than 1,400 scientists from 299 institutions and 40 countries plan to use the collider when it opens in about a decade.

“Projects like this don’t just happen, and they don’t just happen every day," Granholm said. "This is the only collider set to be built in the next 20 years worldwide.”

When completed, the underground collider — about 2.4 miles in diameter — will shoot high-energy beams in opposite directions through two parallel tubes that intersect at several intervals, causing the beams to collide.

Those collisions will help scientists study gluons, the mysterious matter believed to bind together key molecular material known as quarks.

Brookhaven Lab director JoAnne Hewett said the collider "will help us solve mysteries within nature’s building blocks. The EIC and its enormous detectors … will show us how nature’s fundamental particles interact" and lead to future discoveries that are as-yet unimaginable.

“All of the future [science] rock stars will be here during the next decade building this machine,” Hewett said at the ceremony. “There will be nothing else like it in the world.”

In a statement, Gov. Kathy Hochul said the collider would "expand our state’s capability to achieve unimaginable breakthroughs in science, attract innovative 21st century businesses and create good-paying jobs."

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