POCATELLO — Idaho State University intends to purchase the former Positron Systems facility, which it’s been leasing for a few years to supplement research and development at its Idaho Accelerator Center.
The Positron facility is located in a building attached to the Accelerator Center and is now owned by Pocatello Development Authority, which is the entity responsible for administering the city’s tax increment financing districts.
At its July 24 meeting, PDA offered to sell the Positron facility to ISU for $125,000. A purchase and sale agreement has yet to be finalized.
The facility currently serves as the center’s High Energy Imaging Laboratory. Mike Smith, an engineering physicist with the Idaho Accelerator Center, explained a portable linear particle accelerator at the imaging lab is useful in examining structural integrity of everything from bridges to spacecraft components.
He said the Idaho Accelerator Center played a past role in assessing components for the Mars Rover and New Horizons spacecraft, which was launched in 2006 and flew by Pluto.
“It’s a way of inspecting materials to determine there are no flaws,” said Jon Stoner, director of technical operations with the Idaho Accelerator Center.
ISU, in conjunction with the Idaho National Laboratory, also has a contract with the U.S. Army to develop equipment in the imaging lab that can be transported to military depots and used to scan old munitions and identify any chemical agents they contain. Smith explained the Army is seeking to dispose of its old chemical munitions.
Stoner said the contract with the Army has been in place for 20 years. The work was formerly done in a rented facility at the Pocatello Regional Airport’s business park.
ISU signed a five-year lease with PDA that began in July of 2016 and ends on July 30, 2021. PDA officials told ISU leaders last year that they would like them to buy the facility before the lease ends. PDA recently extended a deadline for the university to reach an agreement to buy the facility until Oct. 15.
Stoner said the facility will continue to serve as the center’s imaging lab.
“It helps us to keep our programs centralized here,” Stoner said. “It gives us more opportunity to grow our programs.”
Stoner said ISU has the most operating accelerators of any U.S. university.
“It’s a very unique facility,” he said.
Stoner explained accelerators run particles at high speeds and energies and use particles to probe the nucleus of atoms. The accelerators, for example, are used in producing medical isotopes, which are radioactive substances that can help diagnose and treat certain diseases. The energy emitted enables special camera equipment to detect images of organs and organ function.
Positron was founded in 2001 and was headquartered in Boise, with its primary testing and research conducted in Pocatello. The company used its technology to evaluate damage in materials including metals, polymers, ceramics and composites.