Canadian Light Source

The brightest light in Canada

The Canadian Light Source (CLS) is Canada’s national synchrotron facility. Located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, it is the brightest light in the country - millions of times brighter than even the sun - and is used by scientists to get incredibly detailed information about the structural and chemical properties of materials at the molecular level. The information gathered at the synchrotron facility can be used for a number of purposes, ranging from mine tailing remediation to cancer research and cutting-edge materials development.

Prior the CLS beginning operations in 2005, Canadian scientists had to travel outside of Canada to use synchrotron facilities – primarily to the US, and also to Europe and Asia. But in the late 90s, the University of Saskatchewan, with support from the Province of Saskatchewan, the City of Saskatoon and other funding partners, won a bid to host Canada’s national synchrotron facility. 

Today, the CLS has become one of the largest science projects in Canadian history. It has hosted over 2,500 researchers from academic institutions, government, and industry from 10 provinces and 2 territories; delivered over 40,000 experimental shifts; received over 10,000 user visits; and provided a scientific service critical in over 1,500 scientific publications.

Synchrotron science is increasingly deemed an essential tool for academic, government and industrial research, as evidenced by the fact that all G8 countries have synchrotron facilities, and continue to invest in the technology. Canada’s synchrotron has boasted more than 1,500 scientific innovations from over 2,500 users. These innovations have important social, economic, health and environmental impacts that will be felt across Canadian society and its diverse industries for years to come. 

Recent CLS scientific discoveries include:


  • A new method for producing medical isotopes without a nuclear reactor. In Canada alone, isotopes are used in 5,500 medical scans a day, and current supply centres are scheduled to shut down in the near future.
  • A new protein that converts A and B blood to a universal type, which could be donated to those needing any blood type. Half of all Canadians will either need blood or know someone who will need blood at some point in their lives.
  • Developing chemical signature cancer detection techniques, enabling earlier detection and potentially new treatment avenues for various cancers.
  • Stabilizing nanosilver for use as an antibiotic, which could overcome drug resistance common in existing antibiotics. A Canadian study estimated the annual hospital costs of MRSA to be between $42 million and $59 million, while an American study found the treatment costs associated with antimicrobial-resistant infections to be about $6,000 to $30,000 more per patient compared with the treatment costs of antimicrobial-susceptible infections.
  • New insights into uniqueness of malaria and toxoplasmosis viral infections for applications in drug development. Toxoplasmosis is considered the leading cause of death due to foodborne illnesses in North America, while malaria affects 198 million people every year.

Agriculture and Natural Resources:

  • Identified soil signatures across Saskatchewan, with important implications for effective soil management in the long-term.
  • Discovered the cause of wheat resistance to scab, a fungus which renders wheat inedible and which can affect up to 50 per cent of crop yields in affected areas. Economic losses due to scab in Alberta between 2010 and 2012 alone are estimated at over $15 million dollars.
  • Identified key causes for temperature resistance in peas, which will help breeders develop more heat-tolerant strains of the crop. The pea crop in Saskatchewan in 2013 was valued at $653 million dollars.
  • New understanding of long-term predictive behavior of heavy metal contaminants in a uranium mine, ensuring tailings safety for years to come. Since 1980, the uranium mining industry has spent more than $8.07 billion on uranium mining projects in Saskatchewan in addition to operating expenditures.
  • Revealed new high efficiency catalysts for petroleum refinement which outperform benchmarks in the $16 billion catalysis industry.

Advanced materials:

  • Discovered key behaviours of high temperature superconductors, providing key insight into the development of room-temperature superconductors. Superconducting electrical lines eliminate all energy transmission losses in power grids, which currently make up 7 per cent of all Canadian electrical output.
  • Developed technique to produce platinum nanocrystals under environmentally friendly conditions and without reducing agents. The nanocrystals are used in industrial applications from fuel cells to hydrogenation processes, higher-stability and –efficiency chemical reactions at higher efficiency than traditional options.

New technologies:

  • Using catalysts to produce ultraclean bio-based jet fuel.
  • Showed light-emitting capabilities of chemicals in flax. Organic electronics offer low fabrication costs and improved flexibility over traditional electronics.

Invention disclosures and patents

Technology transfer and innovation are reflected in invention disclosures and patents. Since 2012, six patent applications have been filed either by staff or users.

Industry-Academic Collaborations

In addition to direct engagement through the industrial science group, businesses benefit from access to CLS through partnerships with academic users. Upwards of 50 companies collaborate with or fund CLS users’ research at CLS. This indirect engagement results in transfer of knowhow to the industrial sector, and ultimately, the public domain.

Additional information

CLS operations are funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Western Economic Diversification Canada, National Research Council of Canada, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Government of Saskatchewan and the University of Saskatchewan.


Contact information:

Canadian Light Source Inc.

44 Innovation Boulevard

Saskatoon, SK, S7N 2V3, Canada

Tel: (306) 657-3500

Fax: (306) 657-3535