Discover Neutrons

Impacts of research using neutron beams

Canada’s social, environmental and economic challenges require a complete twenty-first century scientific toolkit for research and innovation in materials. Because everything is made of materials, innovation in materials underpins nearly all technology advances for national priorities, including:

  • A Clean Environment: Producing clean, reliable, and renewable energy and storing it for an efficient electricity grid.
  • A Clean Growth Economy: Transforming manufacturing for clean and energy-efficient, light-weight planes, ships, and cars.
  • Safety and Security: Aiding nuclear non-proliferation, ensuring pipeline and rail safety, and determining fitness-for-service of naval ships.
  • Health and Food Security: Understanding the materials in our bodies on the nanoscale, designing medical devices, and developing resilient crops for global food security.

Neutron beams are versatile and irreplaceable tools for materials research, and Canadians have led in this field, applying them to make major socio-economic impacts in these priority areas for several decades. The impacts range from saving hundreds of millions of dollars by reducing downtimes of Canada’s fleet of nuclear power stations, to bolstering Canada’s scientific reputation through Nobel Prize-winning science.

Examples are available from the Canadian Institute for Neutron Scattering, here:

What is “research using neutron beams”?

The fields of research for which beams from a bright neutron source are required span natural sciences and engineering, and include certain areas of health research and the humanities such as treating cancer and non-destructive probing of historical artefacts. Neutron beams are commonly used to probe materials or objects, which could be anything from molecules to living systems. Just like beams of light are used in a microscope to learn about materials, beams of neutrons scatter from materials to reveal details that cannot be “seen” with other scientific tools.