Cornell energy recovery linear accelerator

  • Building engineering design for a new laboratory facility to support X-ray research.
  • Geotechnical and tunneling design for a 2km-long tunnel to house an energy recovery linear accelerator. 
  • Project management to keep a complex effort on schedule and budget.
  • Working closely with university to fit the new facilities into the campus masterplan.

In 2010, Cornell University applied for funding from the US National Science Foundation (NSF) to upgrade its ageing synchotron into a best-in-class research facility. The large grant request necessitated a rigorous multi-year application process.

The university commissioned Arup to prepare a technical report, design drawings, and cost and schedule projections to support its application.

Designing a groundbreaking research centre

We were selected to lead the architectural design team due to our extensive experience with all crucial aspects of the project. Our ability to provide expert advice on everything from tunneling to cryogenic lab design and project management greatly streamlined the design process.

Our scope included project management, energy assessment, and structural, mechanical, electrical, public health, civil and hydrogeology engineering. We also provided LEED®, fire safety, code assessment, and acoustic and vibration consulting.

Facilitating cutting-edge research

The proposed energy recovery linear accelerator (ERL) will be more than 100 times stronger than existing facilities. The focus and strength of its beams will make it possible to produce images of atom-sized particles for the first time. This will have profound implications across many scientific and technical disciplines.

The Arup team’s comprehensive, tightly coordinated in-house services resulted in innovative technical solutions delivered within the targeted budget and schedule.

Design for change

Cornell needed to ensure that different kinds of experiments could be carried out in the new space and plan for possible future expansion of the X-ray beam lines. The Arup team therefore worked to understand the range of the research being undertaken in order to project future space requirements.


  • Model of proposed Cornell linear accelerator. Credit Arup.Open gallery

    Arup led project management and design efforts.

  • Still image from Cornell ERL film, male engineer speaking to camera.Play video

    Watch members of the Arup and Cornell University teams discuss the ERL project.

  • Existing Cornell linear accelerator. Credit Arup.Open gallery

    Cornell plans to upgrade its existing synchrotron with the world’s first energy recovery linear accelerator.