The U-M Department of Nuclear Engineering & Radiological Sciences is beginning the fall semester with an exciting new facility addition, that also happens to be—well—an old NERS facility.
The Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project (MMPP), originally conceived in 1948, has returned to the NERS department. The living memorial is a building dedicated to the 585 university alumni, students, faculty, and staff members who gave their lives in World War II. It is devoted to the peaceful applications of nuclear science for the welfare of the human race.
For many decades after its dedication, the MMPP and NERS were closely connected, with NERS chairs and faculty often directing the memorial, including Henry Jacob Gomberg, William Kerr, Ronald F. Fleming, John C. Lee, David Wehe, and Gary Was. The memorial shares a wall with the building that once hosted the Ford Nuclear Reactor, which has since been renovated in the Nuclear Engineering Laboratory.
In 2012, the U-M Energy Institute began running the MMPP until the institute disbanded this spring and the memorial was returned to NERS, with Department Chair Todd Allen taking over as director.
“The MMPP started as a cross-campus initiative to understand the possibilities of the new technology of atomic energy,” said Allen. “At a time when the world is looking to nuclear energy to contribute to decarbonization, and developers are pursuing many new applications for nuclear energy, bringing the Phoenix Project back to NERS is timely and important.”
Faculty, staff, and students, began slowly moving into the MMPP over the summer. The move was completed before the fall semester began. Faculty whose offices are now located in the building include Todd Allen, Kevin Field, Fei Gao, Gary Was, and Lumin Wang.
The U-M Battery Lab, now one of the key technical core facilities of the Michigan Materials Research Institute (MMRI), has been operating in the MMPP since October 2013. MMRI is also settling into a suite adjacent to the MMPP main entrance which will be used as an incubator space where faculty, students, and company affiliates can collaborate in an open-setting environment in order to catalyze the formation of multiple new research opportunities sponsored by federal agencies and industry. The space will also be used to host materials research equipment displays for an extended period of time, allowing the U-M community to test and evaluate the respective potentials.
“Having the MMRI as a partner in the facility maintains the MMPP ethos of interdisciplinary approaches to technology development,” said Allen.
“The transition back to MMPP with MMRI as a partner is an exciting opportunity for our nuclear materials-focused students, faculty, and staff,” said Field. “We already had a significant presence in the space and the adjoined NEL, but the move now establishes a centralized, collaborative home to foster innovative, cross-cutting ideas around advanced nuclear materials and the space and facilities to act on them.”
NERS is planning a rededication event for the memorial in April 2022.
Learn more about the Michigan Memorial Phoenix project and its history here.