Centre for Molecular and Materials Science (CMMS)


TRIUMF’s Centre for Molecular and Materials Science (CMMS) equips Canadian and international researchers with unique particle beam tools to explore materials’ atomic-level details and guide the way to next-generation technologies and medicines.

The CMMS provides two powerful research tools: Beta-detected Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (βNMR, the Greek-letter β is pronounced ‘beta’); and Muon Spin Resonance (µSR, pronounced “mew-ess-are”).

CMMS is North America’s only µSR facility and one of four worldwide.

As researchers develop new materials and new applications for existing materials, it’s necessary to understand and characterize materials’ atomic-level characteristics. While other techniques can reveal atomic-level structure, µSR and βNMR provide information on otherwise invisible atomic-level qualities: magnetic and electric fields; and electron behaviour. It’s these qualities that often determine whether a material will make a breakthrough battery, a new superconductor, or a cutting-edge computer chip.

Both βNMR and µSR involve implanting a radioactive probe, whether muons, or in βNMR the rare isotope lithium-8 (8Li), into a gas, liquid or solid. The muons and 8Li are microscopic spies, picking-up information about a material’s atomic-level properties and rapidly communicating this out to scientists via their decay products. The techniques provide both the highest sensitivity to atomic-level magnetic and electrical details and numerous other unique advantages.



Each year, over 150 Canadian and international scientists bring their material samples to CMMS for testing, notably in magnet and superconductor research. Commercial and academic users collaborate with CMMS’ ten scientific and technical staff who provide expert guidance and input on experimental design to maximize CMMS resources. Similarly, CMMS in-house research group has a scientific program that both attracts new users through demonstrating the power of βNMR and µSR as research tools and providing opportunities for collaboration.


βNMR is a next-generation form of NMR – a billion times more sensitive than NMR – used to probe atomic-level magnetic fields and the way that these fields change.

The higher-resolution view βNMR provides is critical in the current search for superconductors and nanomaterials and to better understand complex, biologically important molecules.  For example, scientists need to characterize the special electrical or magnetic properties at material surfaces, or at the metal ion binding sites around which biomolecules fold.

Learn more about βNMR at TRIUMF


Located in the Meson Hall, the μSR facility allows users bring their own research samples to CMMS; usually new or rare materials, for example nanotextured metal alloys for magnets or superconductors. µSR academic users apply through a competitive process overseen by an eight-person international expert scientific committee that assesses the feasibility and scientific interest of the proposed experiment.

Learn more about µSR at TRIUMF