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CFI funds new infrared free electron laser facility at UWaterloo and terahertz light source at TRIUMF

04 April 2024

The Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) has announced a major funding allotment for an infrared free electron laser (IR-FEL) facility, based at the University of Waterloo, and a TRIUMF-based developmental site for a new terahertz (THz) light source for high-field physics. Together, the unique infrastructure will position Canada to be globally competitive in the realm of FEL research and fortify national capabilities in fields ranging from materials science and chemical analysis to nano-engineering and high-field physics. 

At TRIUMF, the new light source will build on prior investments into TRIUMF’s 30 MeV superconducting electron linear accelerator (linac) and related infrastructure and leverage the laboratory’s community of world-leading experts in accelerator science. 

TRIUMF’s high power superconducting electron linac and the accelerator expertise is ideally suited to provide unique high field THz radiation for the photon science users community,” said Oliver Kester, TRIUMF Division Director, Accelerator. “Additionally, the project will further strengthen our expertise in superconducting radiofrequency (SRF) principles and applications, beam physics, and production of electromagnetic radiation. Further, this provides unique experimental opportunities for material science and chemistry that cannot be found elsewhere in North America.”  

FELs are considered the next step in the evolution of light sourcesa diverse family of devices including particle accelerators and lasers that produce high energy photons. Unlike the photons that comprise visible light, which are detectable by the human eye and optical devices like microscopes, higher energy photon beams can be used to study the structural and chemical properties of matter at very small scales – down to the molecular or even atomic level.  

With high power, short pulse length, and relatively narrow bandwidth, IR-FEL and terahertz light sources will allow researchers to investigate the make-up and behaviour of various materials in very fine detail, which is critical for a wide variety of science from physics and chemistry to engineering, environmental science, and more. These new facilities will also provide unique research and training opportunities for Canadian physicist and photon science researchers.  

“The THz light source that will be hosted at the TRIUMF site will enable new and remarkable insights across a diverse range of scientific fields, including physical, chemical, biological, quantum material and life sciences,” said Victor Verzilov, TRIUMF Group Leader, Diagnostics & Probes. “Together with CLS, Waterloo and our university partners, TRIUMF will form a connected infrastructure network enabling access to state-of-art infrared research for Canadian scientists and technologists. The availability of an advanced linear accelerator based on superconducting RF technology and recognized expertise in accelerators place TRIUMF in the front line of developing these technologies in Canada.” 

In total, the proposal brought together 8 Canadian institutions and 10 researchers and marks the culmination of nearly a decade of strategy and planning, including a publication in the Canadian Journal of Physics co-authored by nearly 40 leading Canadian scientists and engineers 

“This CFI-supported project will enable a fundamental change in the Canadian landscape of distributed accelerator infrastructure for the photon science community,” said Kester. “In 2019 the Canadian community published a paper that describes the path towards a Canadian FEL research program, and I’m very happy that we finally get support for this visionary program, which we have modified and streamlined over years.” 

The research team recently opened a competition for an accelerator physics postdoctoral researcher to join the project; interested individuals can learn more here. 

Congratulations to the project team!