More than 40 synchrotron light sources have been built around the world. Countries with synchrotrons include the US, United Kingdom, Germany, France and Japan.
One of the important advantages of synchrotron light is that it covers the full range of the light spectrum from infra-red to X-ray wavelengths. The brilliance of synchrotron light and its ‘tunability’ (researchers can select the wavelength they need for a particular experiment) are two of the special qualities that permit scientists to explore new research domains that were unimaginable a few years ago.
Synchrotron light allows matter to be “seen” at the atomic scale – from the cross-sectional images of a mosquito’s knee to the nanosecond-by-nanosecond behavior of protein molecules such as antibodies. Scientists can probe the structure of matter with greater accuracy and precision than has ever before been possible.
This light can be used in many different ways. It can let us see living cells as they react to drugs, or determine the shape of molecules and the structure of surfaces to help us design everything from better solar cells to more effective motor oil. Synchrotron light can also be used more directly as an industrial tool, to etch microscopic patterns for more powerful computer chips, to machine tiny gears smaller than the width of a human hair, and to weld advanced ceramics that cannot be joined any other way.
The first synchrotrons were built to study subatomic physics. Synchrotron light was an annoyance to the researchers because it meant their electron beams lost energy every time they went through a bending magnet. However, the remarkable qualities of this light were soon recognized, and researchers began to come up with ways to use it.
- Around the world, major corporations are using synchrotrons for research leading to a wide range of new and better products. Applications include:
- investigating chemical reactions
- developing new drugs and vaccines
- designing new microchips for more powerful computers
- improving medical x-ray and mammogram machines
- manufacturing tiny biomedical implants
- creating new materials such as strong metal alloys for airplane wings
- investigating the effects of pollutants on the natural world
- manufacturing microscopic machines such as motors that are small enough to fit through the eye of a needle
- developing new ultra-thin coatings and lubricants
- analyzing ore samples to determine the value of mining finds
- creating better polymers for products such as super-absorbent diapers
- Initially, the CLS will focus on research in three key areas:
- biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and medicine
- mining, natural resources and the environment
- advanced materials, information technologies and micro systems
More than 3,000 academic, industrial and government researchers a year from across Canada and from other countries are expected to use the facility once the full complement of beamlines is developed.
In 1999, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) awarded the project the entire request of $56.4 million -- 40 per cent of new construction costs of $140.9 million (an existing building and other equipment account for the remaining $32.5 million of the project’s $173.4 million total value).
The CLS project is endorsed by 39 universities.
The CLSI board of directors includes representation from various funding partners. The management structure emphasizes the facility's unique national character and its focus on serving academic, industry and governmental users.
The CLS building was completed in February 2001. Commissioning (testing) of the synchrotron booster and storage rings was completed in 2003. First light from the storage ring was detected in a diagnostic beamline on December 9, 2003. Beamline commissioning began in January of 2004.
Currently, the CLS has more than 120 employees, consisting of scientists, engineers, technicians and administrators. Located next to Innovation Place, one of Canada’s leading high-tech industrial parks, the CLS provides a much-needed national R&D capability and strengthens Saskatoon’s reputation as “Science City.”
What's a Synchrotron?
A synchrotron is a source of brilliant light used by scientists to view the microstructure of materials. This extremely bright light is produced by using powerful magnets and radio frequency waves to accelerate electrons to nearly the speed of light. Infrared, ultraviolet and X-ray light is shone down beamlines to endstations (small laboratories) where scientists can select different parts of the spectrum to “see” the microscopic nature of matter, right down to the level of the atom.
Synchrotrons are used to probe the structure of matter and analyze a host of physical, chemical, geological and biological processes. Information obtained by scientists can be used to help design new drugs, examine the structure of surfaces in order to develop more effective motor oils, build more powerful computer chips, develop new materials for safer medical implants, and help clean-up mining wastes, to name just a few applications.
This first-in-Canada 2.9 GeV (gigaelectron volt) synchrotron light source is fully competitive with the best available internationally and will attract industrial and academic researchers from coast to coast and around the world.
With a board of directors representing various funding partners, the management structure emphasizes the facility’s unique national character and its focus on serving users. Its long-term target for industrial usage will be 25 per cent. Typically synchrotrons around the world largely serve academia and government institutions and have about 10 per cent industrial usage.
Why in Saskatoon?
The University of Saskatchewan won the bid in a national competition to build the CLS project. In 1994, a committee sponsored by Canada’s largest scientific granting council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), recommended that Canada develop a dedicated national source for synchrotron light research. Two years later, an international peer review panel evaluated proposals from Ontario and Saskatchewan and unanimously recommended that the CLS be built in Saskatoon.
The existing linear accelerator on campus and the resident expertise to build a synchrotron helped tip the balance in favour of the U of S. The Ontario team then threw their support behind the Saskatchewan proposal. The CLS takes advantage of a pre-existing linear accelerator and electron gun on campus, as well as the accelerator expertise of experienced personnel.
For more information, visit www.lightsource.ca or contact:
Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator
Canadian Light Source Inc.,
University of Saskatchewan