ARCHIVED - Neutron Beam Facility Gets Multi-Million Dollar Boost

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May 07, 2007— Ottawa, Ontario

Located up the Ottawa Valley, two hours west of Ottawa, the NRC Canadian Neutron Beam Centre(NRC-CNBC) at Chalk River Laboratories is a unique Canadian scientific facility. NRC-CNBC is home to a suite of neutron spectrometers – devices used by scientists to investigate materials down to the atomic scale. In the last three years alone, professors and students from over 50 university departments in every province have come to NRC-CNBC to harness neutrons in their research programs.

Photo: Professor Dominic Ryan (third from right) visits the NRC Canadian Neutron Beam Centre with a group of physics graduate students from McGill University to learn about neutron scattering from NRC scientist Dr. Zin Tun (right).
Photo: Professor Dominic Ryan (third from right) visits the NRC Canadian Neutron Beam Centre with a group of physics graduate students from McGill University to learn about neutron scattering from NRC scientist Dr. Zin Tun (right).

Like dozens of other professors in physics, chemistry, bioscience, materials science and engineering departments across Canada, McGill University physicist Dominic Ryan gives his students opportunities to use neutrons in their research and education. Professor Ryan is also the principal applicant on a new $6.59 million Major Resources Support grant, awarded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). This grant will continue to support access by Canadian academics to NRC-CNBC's unique facilities, over the next five years.

C2 Neutron Diffractometer. 800-wire BF3 position sensitive detector. 0.1° Wire spacing. 80° of scattering angle measured simultaneously.
C2 Neutron Diffractometer. 800-wire BF3 position sensitive detector. 0.1° Wire spacing. 80° of scattering angle measured simultaneously.

"Our five neutron spectrometers run 24 hours a day, seven days per week, and they're managed as an international user facility," says Dr. John Root, Director of NRC-CNBC. "While our own staff scientists carry out innovative research and develop new neutron instruments and methods in response to national objectives, over 80% of spectrometer time is occupied by projects involving external users – from universities, industries and government laboratories across Canada and abroad."

"Canadian academic researchers and students are the main users of NRC-CNBC facilities," adds Dr. Root. "Our mission therefore includes enabling professors and students to fully exploit powerful neutron beam methods to reveal new knowledge about materials studied in many disciplines, such as physics, chemistry, materials science, earth science, health science and engineering." As steward of these facilities, NRC ensures its spectrometers and ancillary equipment are always ready for access by external users.

Rather than fund the external user program by collecting user fees from visiting professors, the single NSERC Major Resources Support (MRS) grant provides longer-term baseline support. The MRS arrangement streamlines user access and provides a mechanism for transparent accountability by NRC-CNBC to its primary clientele – Canadian academic users – and they, in turn, to NSERC through normal annual reporting.

The NRC-CNBC user program is a good example of how a federal science facility can maximize its benefits to Canadaby engaging the entire knowledge community including universities, industries and government laboratories," suggests Dr. Root. "The user facility is a resource for international scientific exchanges, whereby foreign researchers visit NRC-CNBC and Canadians are welcomed at neutron centres in other countries."

"Furthermore, the facility provides access by industry, on a full cost-recovery basis, to increase competitiveness in sectors such as energy, materials production, aerospace, automotive and general manufacturing," Dr. Root continues. "This multidisciplinary environment, which includes international experts and industry researchers, adds to the positive experience of Canadian students who visit NRC-CNBC to incorporate neutron scattering experimental research into their programs."

"The substantial increase in NSERC funding represents a clear endorsement of the NRC-CNBC user program by the Canadian academic community – it was strongly supported in an external review by international experts," concludes Professor Ryan. "We now face the challenge of living up to their expectations. But with new neutron reflectometry equipment coming this spring, and a full summer of experiments already scheduled, we are well on the way."


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