The Canadian Light Source (CLS) recently reached an important milestone in its operational life when a University of Saskatchewan graduate student, made the 2000th research visit to Canada's synchrotron in Saskatoon.
"This is an important milestone for the Canadian Light Source and our user community of academic and industrial scientists,” says CLS Executive Director Josef Hormes. “It shows, in a very concrete way, that the CLS is a resource that is in demand and being used by researchers from Saskatchewan and around the world.
The first experiment conducted by a researcher visiting the CLS occurred in May 2005. CLS is a powerful tool for academic and industrial research in a wide variety of areas including environmental science, natural resources and energy, health and life sciences, and information and communications technology.
CLS officials anticipate that the number of visits by researchers to the CLS will grow to 2000 annually once seven beamlines that are currently under construction and in the early stages of testing – such as BMIT – join the seven beamlines that are currently operational.
Canadian Light Source and International Collaboration
The Canadian Light Source at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon is Canada's national centre for the use of brilliant light to view the microstructure of materials. This extremely bright light is produced by using powerful magnets and radio frequency waves to accelerate electrons to nearly the speed of light.
Information obtained through the CLS enables scientists to gain powerful insights into substances as varied as soils, mine wastes, ores and minerals, biological tissues, functional foods and nutrient supplements, leading to a wide range of innovative products and processes that can improve life on the planet.
University of Saskatchewan Canada Research Chairs Graham George and Ingrid Pickering have used the CLS synchrotron to conduct research with profound applications. The contamination of well water by natural arsenic has resulted in the mass poisoning of nearly 100 million people in Bangladesh and the surrounding Ganges River Delta.
Soil selenium levels in the area are very low, and the scarce selenium ingested is leached from the body in the arsenic selenium molecule. Selenium is essential to human health. Symptoms of selenium deficiency can closely resemble those of arsenic poisoning.
George, Pickering and co-workers hypothesized that rather than arsenic poisoning, these Bangladeshi are actually suffering from selenium deficiency. The University of Saskatchewan team is now part of an international collaboration conducting a clinical trial of selenium supplementation in Bangladesh.
Selenium is an essential micronutrient for all animals but it is toxic when consumed in large amounts. In some areas of the world, including parts of Canada, the level of selenium in the soil is too high to allow grazing by livestock.
In other parts, soil selenium is so low that plants do not acquire enough to satisfy the dietary requirements of people and livestock.
Using the CLS, researchers are discovering how plants take-up, transport and use selenium. This information will promote the development of food crops with more selenium and thus reduce health problems caused by selenium deficiency.
It could also stimulate the development of fodder crops that take-up less selenium, thereby increasing usable grazing land.