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Celebrating Canada's National Facilities.

The president of the NRC looks at the value of national research and development facilities for materials research.

The National Research Council plays a leading role in the development of an innovative knowledge-based economy in Canada through science and technology. An important part of this mandate is to champion large-scale facilities and infrastructure that are essential to meet the strategic needs of Canada's research community. Over the past few years, NRC has emphasized the need for national facilities to conduct forefront research in subatomic physics and materials research. The TRIUMF accelerator laboratory, the Canadian Light Source (CLS) and the Canadian Neutron Facility for Materials Research (CNF) represent the three legs of this strategy. These national facilities should be available to all university and industrial scientists and engineers, to provide a critically important infrastructure for science that cannot be drawn from the resources of any one university or organization.

Canada has very few world-class, national facilities, unlike the U.S., Europe and Japan. This has raised the question of whether Canadians can have access on a reciprocal basis to the major facilities in other countries. Furthermore, NRC recognizes that payback to Canada from the training of young scientists and engineers, and from the exposure to new scientific and technological developments, is significantly enhanced if Canadian scientists design and build a domestic facility that meets their own needs, rather than being users of a foreign facility. The need for national facilities is particularly evident when these capabilities are needed to stimulate and support the R&D that is so essential for Canadian companies to compete globally.

The NRC is proud that our efforts and those of our partners NSERC and Industry Canada in 1999-2000 led to renewed and increased five-year funding for TRIUMF, Canada's national facility in Vancouver, BC, where sub-atomic physics and materials research is conducted. Earlier, funding was granted for the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon, which is now under construction. Still to be funded is the Canadian Neutron Facility, which will deliver the only intense source of neutron beams in Canada for advanced materials research. This is a Canadian scientific priority. Without the green light for funding in the next few months, Canada will be the only country in the G-8 with a neutron gap. The current NRU facility at Chalk River, ON, commissioned more than four decades ago in 1957, will shut down in 2005, and it takes more than six years to build a new neutron source.

All three of the national facilities described above are critical to Canada's scientific competitiveness. They provide essential facilities to stimulate and support a culture of science and innovation. They give Canada a leading role in the global S&T community. They open doors for Canadian scientists to a wide array of research tools in foreign laboratories and they provide a unique opportunity for young scientists to participate at the leading edge of discovery. New, large-scale national Facilities attract, train and retain the highly qualified personnel so important to Canada's future.

The construction of the Canadian Light Source, whose total cost of $173

million is shared amongst the Canada Foundation for Innovation and various agencies of government, both federal and provincial, is well underway. The new building to house the synchrotron and storage ring has been completed. It is anticipated that the "first light" will be delivered down experimental beamlines by the end of 2003. This will be a proud moment for Canadian science.

The CNF is a joint proposal of NRC and AECL, supported by NSERC and the university and industrial communities in Canada, which is based on sharing a single reactor-based source of neutrons. The AECL research on nuclear materials inside the core is to develop the next generation of CANDU reactors, a source of clean, sustainable and affordable energy in the 21st century.

The CNF will contain Canada's first cold neutron source and guide hall, opening up new areas of research that require longer wavelengths and finer energy scales than have been accessible previously. The CNF will dramatically increase the ability of Canadian scientists to study nanostructures, biological structures, polymers, colloids, gels and other soft materials which have larger length scales than are typically found in the hard materials: metals, ceramics and composites. The current NRC neutron scattering program already attracts hundreds of university and industry scientists to Chalk River Laboratories to access the unique research results on advanced materials that only neutron beams can supply. The CNF will greatly expand university and industry research in a diverse array of materials and fields, including chemistry, physics, engineering, and biology. It will encourage research that is multidisciplinary and crosses traditional boundaries. Through pre-competitive research and proprietary problem-solvi ng, the CNF will provide a strategic advantage to Canada's industries.

Together, TRIUMF, the Canadian Light Source and the Canadian Neutron Facility will provide a world-class supporting infrastructure for advanced materials research in the 21st century. Canada will be at the forefront of developments in all three of these areas for the first time in history -- something worthy of celebration.

[The Canadian Light Source and Canadian Neutron Facility are described in more detail in this issue of ACCN.]

Arthur Carty is the president of the National Research Council of Canada.
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Author:Carty, Arthur J.
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Date:Jan 1, 2001
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