Travelogue from Canada

Associate professor Sabrina Sartori recently did some experiments at the Canadian Neutron Beam Center. Here is her "lab report."

Working at the set-up of the high resolution powder diffractometer C2. A beam of neutrons can be directed onto a specimen of material, and by measuring how that beam is reflected, we can learn a great deal about the structure of the specimen at the atomic level.

After a long trip, I finally arrive at Chalk River, in Ontario, to perform a week of experiments at the Canadian Neutron Beam Center.  

For an Italian used to a crowded nation, this is in the middle of nowhere. A beautiful nowhere though, with limitless forests and a rich wild life. The laboratories are impressive, covering a square kilometer and employing 2,000 people.

The star of the facility is the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor. With its 100 megawatts it is one of the most powerful research reactors in the world. To have an idea of its power, a megawatt is one million watts and a regular light bulb uses 100 watts.

NRU is strictly a research tool to investigate new materials with neutrons.

Why neutrons?

Neutron scattering is a versatile and powerful technique to explore the structure and dynamics of materials down to atomic length scales. Neutrons have zero electric charge and interact with the atomic nuclei in matter via the nuclear force.

Because neutrons are uncharged they can penetrate deeply into materials and can be applied to research in metals, alloys, polymers, biomaterials, glass, ceramics, thin films, cement and minerals.

In my case, the experiments consist in studying how the interaction with hydrogen modify the structure of new metal compositions. As often happen when doing research, we spent several hours to find the right conditions for the experiment, but the end result was a happy one!

The C2 detector

By Sabrina Sartori
Published Apr. 24, 2015 9:14 AM - Last modified Apr. 24, 2015 12:34 PM