CISCO Systems Invests in PIF&NIF

PIF NIFA team of researchers from Cisco Systems, Inc. visited TRIUMF last week to conduct tests at the newly upgraded beam line of the proton and neutron irradiation facility (PIF & NIF). With a $150,000 investment from Cisco and with coordination through AAPS Inc., TRIUMF completed an upgrade to Beam Line 1B to improve capabilities for irradiation users, including customers like Cisco. The upgrade allows for higher neutron intensities, a remote-controlled neutron convertor and both collimated and large-area irradiations. In addition, TRIUMF management agreed that scheduled beam time would be made available to industry during four approximately one-week periods, nominally in April/May, June/July, September, and December.  With both increased capabilities and availability, TRIUMF has become a more attractive facility for radiation-effects testing.

On December 7th to 11th, the visit from Cisco testing engineers marked the first use of BL1B since the upgrade began in 2012.  Cisco senior Staff Engineer Rick Wong said that he was pleased with the decision to invest at TRIUMF and commented, “The higher intensity beam and beam time availability allows Cisco to plan ahead and react to issues.  We plan to keep coming back to Canada for testing.” The availability of regular, reliable beam time is the greatest factor in building confidence with customers that TRIUMF is a preferred site for radiation testing.

A key motivation behind the investment in the upgrade is to ensure the availability of high-intensity beams for accelerated irradiation testing of electronics. Irradiation testing is a key procedural step in the research and development of all novel electronics before they hit the market. After all, a simple electronic error can affect anything from a cell phone’s reception, to a bank server’s accuracy, to even an airplane’s flight systems. Currently, a commercial entity like Cisco has extremely limited options for irradiation facility use. The reduction in beam time availability or denied access to such a facility would be paralyzing to its research, development, and deployment of consumer goods.

Radiation testers from Cisco have been visiting TRIUMF for many years to test the different circuit boards, chips, and sensors incorporated into their systems. To make full use of the beam time, the testers are often divided into teams who take the day and night shift. During this past testing campaign, a group of researchers from Vanderbilt University of Nashville, Tennessee came to TRIUMF to conduct fundamental research testing overnight on electronics that are already two years ahead of market. This beam time was paid by Cisco who support research in the latest technologies to help them prepare for the next evolution of market-ready electronics.


More information about PIF & NIF can be found on the TRIUMF website at


-Melissa Baluk, TRIUMF Communications Coordinator