Reactor Materials Testing Laboratory

Update: RMTL has a new website, check it out by clicking this LINK!


The Reactor Materials Testing Laboratory (RMTL) is an exciting new research endeavor for the Queen's Nuclear Materials Group. It uses a proton accelerator, similar to those found in many universities and hospitals throughout Canada, to introduce damage into materials at a microscopic scale. By studying the effects of this damage on the way that materials behave we can gain insight into, and draw parallels with, the way that materials are damaged within a nuclear reactor. The facility has been funded by CFI.


There is presently a world-wide resurgence of investment in nuclear power. This has partly come from a desire to operate existing reactors beyond their originally planned lifetime, but is also combined with a realization that nuclear power must be a major component of power generation infrastructure over the next 50 years and beyond if countries wish to maintain low carbon emissions. Correspondingly, there is a renewed interest in research within the area of structural materials for nuclear power applications.

Materials behave quite differently in a nuclear power reactor environment than in conventional applications. The differences are due to the damage to the atomic structure of the materials caused by fast particles; in a reactor these particles are the neutrons that allow the nuclear reaction to occur.

The RMTL will investigate these materials' issues using a different approach, based on the use of accelerator technology. By accelerating protons to moderately high energies, we will be able to introduce damage into small pieces of material. This will simulate the effects occurring within a reactor, allowing us to investigate the way that materials respond to stress and temperature. The goal is to develop a better understanding of the way that materials operate in a reactor, leading to the safe, long-term running of reactors.

Similar accelerators are quite common; they are found in universities throughout Ontario and the rest of Canada for the study of, for example, semi-conductor technology; and in hospitals for the treatment of patients.

If you would like more information about this research effort, please download this information sheet, or contact Rick Holt or Mark Daymond.

Pictures of an accelerator of similar design at McMaster University.

Picture of a large accelerator of similar design at Uppsala University in Sweden: