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.

Neutron beams could really help my research, but I’m not a specialist in the technique. 

Join the club! About 90% of neutron users require assistance by neutron beam specialists at some point in the project. Providing specialists to assist you is the most critical piece of a national program.

What kind of support could the CNI provide for my experiments?

  • Experiment concept and design
  • Competing for beam time
  • Hands-on assistance during the experiments
  • Support for analysis and publication of results
  • Providing specialized computing facilities for data management and analysis
  • Providing essential minor equipment and consumable supplies
  • Offsetting travel costs to the outstations to perform experiments
  • Other training opportunities for students and post-docs

The CNI is envisioned as a university-led national program for materials research with neutron beams, which will:

  1. build partnerships with neutron sources abroad,
  2. fully exploit the McMaster Nuclear Reactor (MNR), and
  3. establish a “Hub” that proactively facilitates Canadian access to these resources, develops beamlines and equipment, and acts as the administrative centre for the national program.

Details of the CNI are subject to negotiation with government funding sources, with the potential partner facilities, and of course, the input of Canadian researchers.

CNI cost by function

What foreign facilities will I be able to access?

The CNI cannot begin formal partnership discussion with foreign facilities without approval in principle from the government. Nonetheless, representatives from the following facilities have expressed interest in a Canada partnership:

  • Institute Laue Langevin (France)
  • European Spallation Source (Sweden)
  • Spallation Neutron Source and the High-Flux Isotope Reactor (Oak Ridge, USA)
  • NIST Centre for Neutron Research (Maryland, USA)
  • ISIS Neutron and Muon Source (UK)

Input from the research community will be needed in a partnership selection process.

What research could I do at the McMaster Nuclear Reactor?

Today, MNR is used for neutron imaging, and a small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) beam line is being built there, because MNR’s neutron flux is suitable for a range of SANS experiments. Further, by upgrading the reactor’s operating cycle and the neutron flux, it would become suitable for a range of other techniques, such as powder diffraction and reflectometry.

By building out beamlines for these techniques and operating a user program, MNR would be an excellent training facility not only because of the research that it would directly enable, but because it would develop Canadian capability, preparing Canadians to compete for access to world-leading foreign facilities.

What’s the role of the “Hub”?

The Hub would provide direct support needed to maintain and rejuvenate the research community:

  • Developing commercial activities, including outreach to industry, contracting for neutron-beam services, facilitating supply of services to neutron beam facilities, and spinning-off technologies to Canadian business.
  • Supporting individual experiments, as described above.
  • Developing, designing and fabricating beamline equipment in response to emerging scientific requirements of Canadian researchers, and commissioning them for use at the outstations.
  • Reaching out proactively to attract new users and train non-specialists to rejuvenate capability, which may include partnering with universities across Canada to establish research and educational programs sponsoring students and post-docs, and organizing neutron scattering workshops.

The Hub is also the central body that ties the program together to ensure all activities at the various ‘outstations’ are prioritized, supported, and managed in alignment with Canadian strategic directions.  The Hub would enable centralization of various functions domestically, rather than distribute and duplicate them among the outstations. The Hub’s central administrative functions would include:

  • Securing and administering funds (e.g. preparing funding applications, a party to funding agreement with federal agency, a party to access agreements with off-site neutron sources)
  • Analyzing program performance and reporting for accountability
  • Managing a user proposal review system to ensure effective allocation of resources
  • Establishing effective governance, including a board of directors, scientific advisory committees, and stakeholder communications to guide priorities and operating policies
  • Maintaining science communications and outreach to students and the public
  • Coordinating access to administrative resources, such as human resources, legal, IT, procurement, safety, regulatory compliance, and training.

Where does the idea of a Hub come from?

The concept of the Hub is derived from the Canadian Neutron Beam Centre (CNBC) and programs in other scientific fields that rely on outstations (Table below), and notably from the Jülich Centre for Neutron Science in Germany, which is the only example in the world of a neutron user program that has operated successfully beyond the closure of its neutron source. Of the Hub’s functions, provision of scientific and technical staff to support the national program is the most important, and is a characteristic of all the successful major research facilities. Leading neutron sources provide 6-10 staff per beamline.

Table: Examples of Canadian research organizations that operate or participate in major facilities located remotely from the users, and with the exception of CNBC and POLAR, from the central administration as well. These organizations all foster their corresponding scientific communities, providing much more than just bare access to equipment.

Hub Description
National Research Council (NRC) Herzberg Facilitates Canadian participation in international astronomy facilities as “Canada’s gateway to the stars”
Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR) Responsible for strengthening Canadian leadership in polar science and technology in addition to providing access to its primary facility the Canadian High Arctic Research Station.
TRIUMF Acts as Canada’s gateway for involvement in CERN the world’s largest particle physics project located in Switzerland in addition to providing its own facilities for access
Canadian Light Source Supports some Canadian staff at foreign light sources to support Canadian research in addition to providing its own facilities for access
Canadian Neutron Beam Centre Fosters the Canadian capability through introducing and training new and non-specialist users and leading development of beam equipment and methods
ArcticNet Built around the CCGS Amundsen research icebreaker ArcticNet fosters scientific capability needed to study and manage the changing Canadian arctic