McMaster researchers will benefit from new synchrotron facility in Saskatchewan


Due to efforts by McMaster, along with other Ontario universities, a state-of-the-art research facility is to receive funding from the province.

The provincial government has announced it will invest $9.4 million over three years in a Canadian Light Source (CLS) synchrotron. The facility, currently under construction at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, will take four years to complete and cost a total of $173.5 million.

Adam Hitchcock, senior scientific consultant with CLS and professor of chemistry at McMaster, is pleased with the provincial government's participation. “The CLS is a major investment in the science and technology field. The facility will be used by researchers in a variety of disciplines for 30 years to come,” he says. Hitchcock predicts that the Canadian-owned and operated facility will have a positive impact on research in this country.

McMaster is one of the 10 signatories on the original application to the federal government, and one of four Ontario universities that formed the Ontario Synchrotron Consortium (OSC). The other members are the University of Western Ontario, Queen's University and the University of Waterloo.

A synchrotron light source is much like a very special laser. The beam produced is very narrow and bright, and covers the spectral range, from infra-red to X-ray wavelengths. Researchers use the light beam to see the structure and chemical behaviour of materials and molecules.

“This is a third generation synchrotron light source in which devices like undulators will be used to alter the electron beam, making it as bright and as fine (narrow) as possible,” Hitchcock explains.

The research applications are enormous. For physicists and geologists, biologists, chemists and those working in materials science, the ability to conduct specialized experiments right here in Canada is very exciting, Hitchcock says. Synchrotron light is also used in research in the areas of agriculture, pharmacology, health, and in certain manufacturing processes.

“This is cutting-edge technology.”

The six-storey CLS facility is the size of a football field. It will have 10 bending magnets, each of which focuses a light beam in a straight line to one of the 10 experimental stations.

Hitchcock is also principal investigator on a project that requires access to a spectromicroscopy beam. He has submitted a proposal that would see one of the stations incorporate the specialized microscope, which is used to study the chemical analysis of polymers and biomaterials.

The $9.4 million, which comes from an Ontario Innovation Trust (OIT) grant, will be administered by the OSC. The federal government, the government of Saskatchewan, industry representatives and 19 of the country's universities are also supporting the project.