National Research Universal reactorThe National Research Universal reactor shut down in April 2018, leaving Canada without a major neutron source.

UWindsor to host three days of discussion on Canada’s neutron sources

A three-day workshop this weekend will seek to lay the groundwork for Canada’s future in neutron scattering.

The workshop is being hosted by Drew Marquardt, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, on behalf of the Canadian Institute for Neutron Scattering.

“It is a big event,” says Marquardt. “We will have academic experts discussing alongside key national and international organizations about the future of maintaining Canada’s neutron scattering needs and expanding the scientific resources Canadian researches and industry need for materials research using neutron beams.”

Dean of Science Chris Houser notes the workshop is a bit of a coup: “We are proud to have Dr. Marquardt represent our Faculty as well as the University at this important event, and for hosting such important discussions about our future research partnerships.”

These discussions have been anticipated since Canada’s National Research Universal (NRU) reactor shut down in April.

Marquardt says that since the shutdown of the NRU, Canada is alone among developed nations without either a neutron beam laboratory or a formal arrangement providing access to one.

“A main goal we have is to explore short term options,” he says. “This includes discussions about getting as many universities in Canada onboard for a big neutron initiative and exploring the notion of buying into agreements with foreign sources, most likely the United States.”

Nine post-secondary institutions across Canada will be in attendance, as well as national labs and organizations such as the Canadian Light Source, the Canadian Nuclear Society, the Canadian Neutron Initiative, and Canadian Nuclear Labs. Neutron facilities in the US will also be represented.

Industry members will also be in attendance, with Proto Manufacturing, the McMaster Nuclear Reactor, Nemak, and Mirexus Biotechnologies sending representatives.

“We are trying to get industry involved,” says Marquardt. “And they all have an interest at stake. Even insurance companies rely on neutron scattering. For example, if there’s a rail accident, the train tracks would be analyzed for micro stresses in the metal using neutrons.”

Canadian scientists, both in academia and in the industry, continually use neutron beams for a wide range of applications, from understanding quantum materials to determining reliability of car engine parts.

The workshop will begin in Windsor Hall on Friday, October 12, from 4 to 7 p.m., continue Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and conclude on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

—Darko Milenkovic