70 Years of Neutron Beams for Materials Research: The CNBC Releases Its Final Activity Report

With the release of its final activity report, the Canadian Neutron Beam Centre (CNBC) celebrates Canada’s leadership in the use of neutron beams for materials research for over 70 years.

“Our leadership began with the startup of the NRX reactor at Chalk River Laboratories in 1947,” says John Root, Director of the CNBC. “It spanned from the pioneering days of developing neutron scattering techniques through to the global recognition of neutron beams as an invaluable tool for the study of materials.”

The importance of these advancements was marked by the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physics, as well as by the proliferation of neutron beam facilities around the world.

“Today, we are proud to have grown a strong Canadian community of neutron beam users who have engaged with us to maximize value from our beamlines until the very last moment of the NRU reactor’s operating life in March 2018,” continues Root.

Since the closure of the NRU reactor, the CNBC has been in a decommissioning phase.

“As we look forward to the future by securing access to neutron beams from alternate facilities, now is an appropriate time to pause and reflect on Canada’s strong record of performance and impact, as presented in this report,” adds Thad Harroun, President of the Canadian Institute for Neutron Scattering.   

Read the 2019 CNBC Activity Report

Report Examines Impact of Canadian Research Using Neutron Beams on Canada’s Innovation Economy

The Canadian Neutron Beam Centre (CNBC), a national research facility in Chalk River, Ontario, that is now in a decommissioning phase, “had a positive impact on Canadian innovation, research, and industry, as well as on the development of highly qualified personnel in Canada.” This is the conclusion of Strategic Policy Economics (Strapolec), a leading strategy consulting firm commissioned by the CNBC to analyse and summarize the benefits that materials research using neutron beams the CNBC has offered to Canada’s academic communities and industries.

The Strapolec report provides fresh evidence of impact from the CNBC and its user community, and builds on earlier studies by Science-Metrix and KPMG,” says John Root, CNBC Director.

“Among other analyses, Strapolec undertook the first longitudinal analysis of students that have received training at the CNBC over the years,” adds Root, noting that there have been about 1000 such students over the past 35 years.

The study found that the CNBC was an engine of supply of highly qualified people, enhancing university training and inspiring students to pursue greater educational achievements, which led to careers in Canada’s academic, industrial manufacturing, and scientific R&D sectors where their skills are needed most.

Other major findings of Strapolec include:

  • The CNBC was a key element of Canada’s research infrastructure that supports its innovation economy and was competitive with international neutron beam facilities.
  • The CNBC’s user community was well-distributed across Canada, and it enabled these users to make greater scientific impacts; it was used by a high proportion of Canada Research Chair holders and was rated Canada’s most valuable research asset by international scientific experts.
  • Researchers who used the CNBC attracted a high proportion of collaborative industry research dollars from a broad cross-section of Canada’s industries that invest in R&D.

“The CNBC was held in high esteem among the international research community; it was probably the best regarded major research facility in Canada,” says Thad Harroun, President of the Canadian Institute for Neutron Scattering. “Our expertise is now focussed on re-creating that success at a new facility.”

Read the Full Report

Parliamentary Committee Recommends Implementation of the Canadian Neutron Initiative

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance (FINA)  recommended, in its December 10, 2018 report, that the Government of Canada “Support the pan-Canadian, university-led Canadian Neutron Initiative to ensure that Canada maintains our place among leaders in materials research in priority areas, such as producing and storing clean energy, growing the economy through advanced manufacturing and clean technologies, and promoting health through biomedical and life sciences.” 
The report, entitled Cultivating Competitiveness: Helping Canadians Succeed, is the culmination of the Committee’s consultations for the 2019 budget. 

The recommendation to implement the Canadian Neutron Initiative (CNI) is part of a series of recommendations to “stimulate research and development.” The recommendation follows the submission of the CNI Working Group, which asked for an allocation of “$24M of new funding in Budget 2019, and $100M over five years, starting in 2021‐22, to the Canada Foundation for Innovation to establish, via the Canadian Neutron Initiative, a pan‐Canadian,university‐led framework for materials research and innovation with neutron beams.” 

The brief to the CNI as presented to FINA in 2018 and in 2017 are available from the CNI resource page.



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