stoughton
Numerous stations of research lab equipment are attached to the particle beam ring at the Synchrotron Radiation Center in Stoughton. Jeff Miller/University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The future of a major UW-Madison science center -- the Synchrotron Radiation Center -- is in jeopardy after it was targeted to lose its annual federal funding under President Barack Obama's proposed budget.

The facility -- a baseball diamond-sized electron accelerator in Stoughton -- attracts researchers from all over the world and has contributed to the science of computer chips, Alzheimer's disease and fuel sources, according to Synchrotron scientists.

Obama's budget calls for the termination of about $5 million a year in funding from the National Science Foundation for the project, said Joseph Bisognano, the center's director.

The NSF funding accounts for about 90 percent of the facility's operations, Bisognano said. He said that the 30-year-old center will likely have to lay off some of its 35 employees.

In cutting the funding, a document from the Obama administration cites "more powerful and capable facilities that surpass the capabilities of the SRC facility."

But Bisognano disagreed with that assessment. Citing the UW-Madison center as only one of eight like it in the country, he said the facility is constantly updated and still very powerful.

"At the moment we have the best infrared light source here of a certain kind," he said.

Scientists use the radiation generated by the electrons -- which race around a huge ring dubbed Aladdin -- to conduct experiments on different materials.

Bisognano said he hopes the center can continue to run through other sources of funding.

He also has a $4.5 million grant from the Department of Energy to help develop an electron gun and he said the National Science Foundation is reviewing Synchrotron's proposal for another major project.

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