U of W professor involved in project that’s ultra-cool


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UNIVERSITY of Winnipeg physics professor Jeff Martin makes it sound so cool -- and so cold.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/06/2009 (5094 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

UNIVERSITY of Winnipeg physics professor Jeff Martin makes it sound so cool — and so cold.

Martin heads a team that’s just received $4.225 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), which is the largest award to a Manitoba post-secondary institution since CFI was founded in 1997, U of W officials said Monday.

Martin will use the funds to construct the Canadian Spallation Ultracold Neutron Source on the University of British Columbia campus, which will be the world’s highest-density source of ultracold neutrons.

submitted photo Jeff Martin: studying neutrons

“It’s so cool,” said Martin.

“It requires a high-energy beam to smash into a heavy target, usually tungsten,” to release protons and neutrons from atoms, said Martin. “You don’t want to be there (in that room) — it’s probably the most radioactive place at TRIUMF.”

TRIUMF is Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear science on the UBC campus. Martin heads a team of more than half a dozen partners, including the University of Manitoba and researchers from Japan.

Smashing the atoms to release neutrons is where the word spallation comes in, said Martin. Then the neutrons are ultra-cooled, to slow them down to less than 30 km/h so that scientists can contain and observe them.

Ultra-cool means 0.003 Kelvin, just above absolute zero, said Martin, pointing out that room temperature is around 300 Kelvin.

He can actually be in the same room to work with neutrons at that temperature, said Martin. It’s about a 20-metre-by-20-metre facility, and only the third in the world. The others are in Japan and at Los Alamos in New Mexico. Scientists will be able to study neutrons to determine how long they live and how they decay. The researchers will be able to measure gravitational levels, he said.

While the project will be based in Vancouver, “I was able to bring in a small business in Pinawa, Acsion Industries,” which will create a simulator Martin will use here to train U of W students.

The project will be funded over a four-year period, combined with other contributions from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science led by Yasuhiro Masuda from the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK, Tsukuba, Japan), Acsion Industries (Pinawa), TRIUMF and other sources.

“This is a critical step in the development of Canadian neutron physics and, in particular, the research into ultracold neutrons,” said Sandra Kirby, U of W’s associate vice-president (research) and dean of graduate studies.

“We applaud Dr. Martin and his team, who have created a research plan that allows The University of Winnipeg-led team to work with other institutions in the area of subatomic physics. This will serve as a magnet for other researchers and for graduate students who want to work with the team in experimental physics,” Kirby said.

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