What is a Synchrotron

CLS synchrotron interior

A synchrotron is a source of brilliant light that scientists can use to gather information about the structural and chemical properties of materials at the molecular level.

A synchrotron produces light by using radio frequency waves and powerful electro-magnets to accelerate electrons to nearly the speed of light. Energy is added to the electrons as they accelerate so that, when the magnets alter their course, they naturally emit a very brilliant, highly focused light. Different spectra of light, such as Infrared, Ultraviolet, and X-rays, are directed down beamlines where researchers choose the desired wavelength to study their samples. The researchers observe the interaction between the light and matter in their sample at the endstations (small laboratories).

This tool can be used to probe 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 to develop more effective motor oils, build smaller, more powerful computer chips, develop new materials for safer medical implants, and help with the clean-up of mining wastes, to name just a few applications.

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About the CLS synchrotron

cls city view

The CLS is Canada’s national centre for synchrotron research. Located at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, the CLS is a world-class, state-of-the-art facility that is advancing Canadian science, enhancing the competitiveness of Canadian industry and contributing to the quality of life of people around the world.  

Launched in 1999 and officially opened in 2004, the synchrotron is one of the largest science projects in Canadian history and was the product of an unprecedented collaboration of federal, provincial and municipal governments and agencies, universities from across the country and industry.

The CLS is committed to being a world-leading centre of excellence in synchrotron science and its applications by working with the scientific community to promote the use of synchrotron light, promoting industrial partnerships and innovation, and engaging in scientific and educational outreach.

Currently, the CLS has just under 200 employees including scientists, engineers, technicians and administrative personnel. 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 Canada’s “Science City.”

CLS staff photo 2013
CLS Staff Photo 2013

The mission of the CLS encourages excellence in both basic and applied science, with the mandate to grow the Canadian synchrotron research community and be responsive to its needs. This is accomplished through leadership by an independent board of directors that emphasizes the facility’s national character, with representation from government, universities and industry, as well as advisory committees made up of leading scientists from across Canada and around the world.

Access to the CLS for scientists doing basic research is through a peer-review process that encourages excellence and originality in the science done at Canada’s synchrotron. Research time is also reserved on each beamline for fee-for-service access by industry.

This tool can be used to probe 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 to develop more effective motor oils, build smaller, more powerful computer chips, develop new materials for safer medical implants, and help with clean-up of mining wastes, to name just a few applications.

Synchrotron Light

Though a synchrotron is not the only way to generate IR, UV or X-Ray light, we experience substantial benefits in brightness, experiment quality and speed, along with increased ability to select specific light wavelengths. Synchrotron light is emitted when the path of an electron beam is altered via extremely powerful magnets.

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How does a Synchrotron work?

As a third generation synchrotron, the CLS is comprised of several components including the Electron Gun, Linear Accelerator, Booster Ring, and Storage Ring. Each of these sections contributes to producing a beam of synchrotron light, which is then harnessed in a beamline, using an optics hutch, experimental hutch and work stations.

how a synchrotron works cls
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Learn more about the inner workings of the Canadian Light Source synchrotron. 

 

Quick Facts:

  • More than 40 synchrotron light sources have been built around the world. The Canadian synchrotron is competitive with the brightest facilities in Japan, the U.S. and Europe.

  • CLS was built in three phases: Phase I included the building, the rings, and several beamlines at a cost of $174M; Phase II added seven more beamlines ($56M) including the much-lauded Biomedical Imaging and Therapy beamlines; Phase III, currently under way, adds six more beamlines at an estimated cost of $65M

  • More than 3,000 scientists have used the CLS more than 5,000 times.

  • Beamlines carry the synchrotron light to scientific work stations that operate 24 hours per day, 6 days per week, approximately 42 weeks of the year.

  • The first synchrotrons were additions to facilities built to study subatomic physics. Synchrotron light was an annoyance to those 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.

  • CLS utility costs are approximately $1.8M annually including electricity, steam and water. When we are operating the facility with stored beam, consumption is approximately 3.2-3.5 megawatts to produce approximately 200 kW of synchrotron radiation. This translates to approximately $1,000 worth of electricity daily.

  • The six-storey building (Phase I construction) required 1,300 tons of steel and enough concrete to build 160 1,200-square-foot homes. This concrete base has more than 700 piles each 10-20m deep with vibrational isolation from the foundation for the walls in order to ensure stability.

  • A 2010 economic impact study estimated that CLS operations directly contributed almost $90M to the Canadian GDP. This means that for every dollar of CLS operating funding (approximately $23M) our operations contributed three to the Canadian economy.

how can we help?

If you’re looking for information on how you can use CLS techniques in your research program, please contact us using this form.

Example queries may include: Feasibility around a potential experiment? A scientific problem we can help you solve? Is your question related to a specific technique? Do you want to know more about how to apply for beamtime?

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