Canadian Light Source to illuminate research

Canada's largest science project, a high-tech synchrotron for research and industrial applications, to be launched Friday.

Scientists in Saskatoon are set to unveil a synchrotron on Friday, a state-of-the-art research facility and Canada's largest science project in 30 years.

The $174-million synchrotron, the Canadian Light Source, is able to generate light millions of times brighter than the sun, allowing scientists to peer inside matter at the atomic level.

Saskatchewan's synchrotron is the first in North America designed to study human health topics such as environmental technology, food safety and biomedical imaging, according to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

"The beauty of the synchrotron is the fact that it's not a specialized tool anymore," said Ian Coulthard, a staff scientist at the facility who moved to Saskatchewan from Ontario.

The facility opens research possibilities in virtually all scientific fields, including:

  • Making better microchips.
  • Finding a cleaner engine oil.
  • Taking a closer look at plant enzymes.
  • Watching living cells react to drugs.

The versatile tool uses powerful magnets to accelerate electrons to nearly the speed of light, creating an incredibly bright light.

"That light comes off as a continuum, similar to what you see when the sun shines after a thunderstorm and you get the rainbow effect," said scientist Jeff Cutler of Canadian Light Source. "Same kind of idea here except we generate infrared, we generate visible, and we generate soft and hard X-rays."

Researchers in Saskatoon expect 2,000 colleagues from around the world to visit the football field-sized facility each year.

Canadian Light Source is one of a handful of leading-edge synchrotrons in the world that can produce such bright light.