A synchrotron is a source of brilliant light that acts like a giant microscope to allow matter to be seen at the atomic level. Synchrotron light is millions of times brighter than sunlight and millions of times more intense than conventional X-rays. The synchrotron uses powerful electro-magnets and radio waves to accelerate electrons in a circular path to nearly the speed of light. The infrared, ultraviolet and X-ray light produced is shone down beamlines to small laboratories, called endstations, where researchers can choose different parts of the spectrum to examine the nature of matter at its most elemental state. The synchrotron is an indispensable tool for conducting investigations in medicine, biology, chemistry, physics, materials science and environmental sciences. Information obtained with the synchrotron can be applied to myriad purposes, including designing new drugs, building more powerful computer chips, developing safer medical implants and cleaning up mining waste.
Canada's first synchrotron facility, called Canadian Light Source (CLS), officially opened on 22 October 2004 at the UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN. The synchrotron cost $173.5 million to build and is housed in a facility the size of a football field. There are more than 40 synchrotron light sources around the world. Until the construction of CLS, Canadian researchers had to travel to other countries to conduct research in a synchrotron facility. The Canadian synchrotron is competitive with the brightest facilities in Japan, the US and Europe and is expected to attract scientists from around the world. Canada was the last of the G-8 countries to build a synchrotron facility.