Discover Neutrons

Discover Neutrons

Everything is made of materials. That means cars, planes, computers, power plants, batteries, medical devices, food, and even our own bodies – everything.

By improving our understanding of the way that materials work, and applying that knowledge to solve problems, we can make advances in most aspects of our lives.


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 bio-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”

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.



What is “research using neutron beams”?

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.

There are many fields of research for which beams from a bright neutron source are required. These fields 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.

Impact Examples

Clean Energy Production

Engineers study materials for electricity generation methods that do not produce greenhouse gases including hydroelectric, wind, solar, and nuclear energy, to make them more reliable or cost-effective.

Health & Food Security

Life scientists are developing better cancer treatment, and better coatings for medical devices. They study biomolecules such as cholesterol, vitamin E to unravel the mysteries of our bodies. They study plants to develop drought-resistant crops.

Electric Vehicles and Clean Energy Storage

Chemists study the structures of new materials for batteries, fuel cells, hydrogen storage and other technologies to get our cars off fossil fuels, and extend the use of clean energy.

Future Breakthrough Technologies

Physicists study quantum materials, including superconductors and spintronic materials, to revolutionize energy, medical diagnostics and even the Internet of Things.

Cleaner, More Reliable Vehicles

Engineers study metal alloys, looking for ways to make reliable, light-weight parts for cars that will boost energy efficiency, thereby paving the way for electric or hydrogen vehicles.

Nuclear Security

Engineers study materials to reduce threats with technologies to prevent the spread of weapons and to identify illicit materials.


Engineers are studying materials to make jet engines more fuel-efficient, reduce scrap waste and production costs, to improve the lifetime of critical parts, and to advance methods to repair engines.


Defense researchers study new methods for repairing Canadian ships, and our allies are now advancing one of these methods further to save money on high-speed, light-weight ships.

Oil & Gas

Engineers study materials to help to decide when to replace pipeline sections to prevent leaks, or to develop more reliable components for harsh conditions.

Other Industries

Engineers study metal products to increase safety and performance, and boost competitiveness.

All Impacts

To read more about the impact of research using neutron beams, view our Research Stories 
Research Stories

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