One of Saskatoon’s most remarkable scientific displays is going to be shelved for a few months.
The Canadian Light Source (CLS) is in the midst of “an expected shutdown” as workers continue to repair a critical piece of the machine’s equipment.
In a release sent by the CLS, Canada’s only synchrotron will be out of use until Nov. 16. Because of the repairs, the CLS will also not issue any calls for new project proposals between January and June 2019.
The issues began on June 27 when the electron source at the facility failed. Upon further inspection, several broken components were found in the electron gun’s massive 220,000 volt power supply.
Once those components were fixed, staff members found the power supply’s transformer need to be replaced.
“We recognize that this is an unprecedented outage for the CLS and we are doing everything possible to solve the problem,” CEO Rob Lamb said in a statement issued on the CLS website.
With a shutdown like this, there’s no telling what impact it will have on the scientific community, but Lamb certainly knows one thing.
“The multitude of user groups that normally come in for anywhere from a day to a week, they won’t be able to use it until we fix everything.” he said.
“There are nine different countries (of researchers) that are unable to use it because we just don’t have the light.”
Due to the highly complicated and specialized nature of the components, repairs will take several weeks.
“What it simply means is, that in the short time since we’ve been down, there’s no way that these people can go to other facilities.”
Compounding the problem is the age and size of the parts needed will require excessive shipping, testing, installation and conditioning of the new parts.
The electron gun and its power supply were originally designed and built for the Saskatchewan Accelerator Laboratory — the precursor to the CLS — in 1978.
With age expected to be the main culprit behind the shutdown, replacements at the CLS might become more common in the future.
“Given that this is the most complex scientific instrument in Canada, it’s only a matter of time before we have to start updating other things as well,” Lamb said.