For more than 70 years, scientists at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont have carried out groundbreaking research into nuclear power. On April 19, 1946, the University of Chicago accepted a contract to run the laboratory on a plot of wooded land in southwestern Cook County that was previously used for atomic experiments as part of the Manhattan Project. The laboratory was initially part of a program devised by President Harry S. Truman after World War II that moved atomic research from military control into civilian hands.


The goal of Argonne and other laboratories established under the Atomic Energy Act was to develop peaceful uses for nuclear power, specifically in generating electricity and medical research. One civilian application of atomic research is the medical use for ultrasound technology, which was pioneered at Argonne. Currently, the laboratory is focusing on nanotechnology research, specifically the electric polarization of materials as small as three atoms thick. While finding peaceful uses for nuclear energy has always been the focus at Argonne, the lab performed some military research during the Cold War. The USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear submarine, was developed at Argonne in 1954.


The intellectual energy and strong academic institutions of Illinois are always on display at Argonne National Laboratory. The laboratory’s scientists have earned hundreds of awards during thepast 70 years, and all signs point toward continued innovation in peaceful nuclear technology for the 21st century.

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