Canadian Neutron Initiative (CNI)

CINS offers this page to the research community as a collection of information about the CNI. Representatives of government, universities, and other institutions seeking official CNI information are welcome to contact the CNI’s chair, Karen Chad at the University of Saskatchewan.

What is the Canadian Neutron Initiative (CNI)?

The CNI is a pan-Canadian effort in a response to the loss of an irreplaceable tool – neutron beams – essential to Canada’s clean economy, security and health goals, as of March 2018. The CNI proposes a pragmatic, cost-effective solution to this urgent public policy challenge, aiming to sustain access for Canadians to an irreplaceable critical scientific tool, today and tomorrow. It proposes to establish a new framework for stewardship of Canada’s capability for research with neutron beams.

How is the CNI critical to Canada’s clean economy, security and health goals?

A complete 21st century research toolkit is vital for innovation in materials that are needed for:

  • A clean environment: Producing clean energy, whether by wind, solar, or nuclear power, and storing it effectively in an efficient electricity grid.
  • Clean Growth: Advanced manufacturing of energy-efficient, light-weight planes, ships, and cars that can be powered by clean energy.
  • Safety and Security: Aiding nuclear non-proliferation, pipeline and rail safety, and determining fitness-for-service of naval ships.
  • Health and Agri-Food: Understanding the materials of our bodies, designing medical devices, and developing resilient crops for global food security.

Scientific discovery and technological advancements in these areas, and in many others, depend on having the tools for materials research, since everything is made of materials, after all.

Who uses neutron beams as research tools?

Over 800 scientists, engineers and students from over 30 universities participate in research using them to advance their programs of research and innovation. Industries such as automotive, aerospace, energy generation, defense, oil & gas, metal production use them to enhance productivity.

Why is a new framework needed?

The framework for stewardship of Canada’s capability for materials research with neutron beams must adapt to address four challenges: (1) the closure of the NRU reactor at Chalk River in March 2018; (2) the 2018 expiry of an arrangement for Canadian participation at the Spallation Neutron Source in Oak Ridge, USA; (3) the lack of mandate for federal agencies (e.g. National Research Council, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited) to continue managing a national program for access of researchers to neutron beam facilities; and (4) the need for a university institutional presence within this framework.

What Are Neutron Beams?

Just like beams of light are used in a microscope to learn about materials on a micrometre scale, beams of neutrons reveal nanometre-scale details about materials’ molecular structures and motions that cannot be seen with other scientific tools – details that are critical to how materials perform.

Discover neutrons for materials research.

CINS has lots of examples of actual and potential impacts in these areas arising from research using neutrons beams.

Neutron beams are an essential and unique tool for evaluating the reliability of critical components for the automotive industry.

Glenn Byczynski, R&D and Engineering Manager, Nemak USA & Canada

What is the CNI’s proposed solution?

The CNI seeks to establish a new university-led framework for leadership, management and funding of Canada’s capacity for materials research with neutron beams, building on existing national and international resources. The new framework will ensure Canadians can access neutron beams for world-class research and innovation in materials as well as training students for highly-skilled careers.

The CNI addresses two time horizons. For the next decade, the CNI must focus on coordinating access to leading neutron-beam facilities abroad. The CNI will also need to fully exploit domestic, university-based capabilities, including the McMaster Nuclear Reactor, which will be Canada’s best remaining research reactor at that time. Both aspects will be needed to maintain and rejuvenate a capable community of researchers in this field.

For the longer term beyond 2030, a national decision-making process focused on large-scale research infrastructure is needed. A neutron-based research community, which is rejuvenated through the CNI, can inform deliberations about a potential new research reactor, thereby helping to maximize return on future investments, by designing in leading-edge scientific capabilities that will attract international collaboration and place Canada at the forefront of materials research and innovation for decades.

World-class research and innovation require large, national-scale science facilities that are accessible and maintained at the state-of-the-art. The Canadian Neutron Initiative proposes a single program for orderly stewardship of Canadian access to neutron-beam facilities for a decade.

Nobel Laureate in Physics (2015), Prof. Art McDonald, Queen’s University