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Making Ottawa the world’s photonics center

Melinda A. Rose, melinda.rose@photonics.com

OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada –
“[Photonics] is having a transformative impact on our daily lives, from bar codes to flat-screen televisions, from advanced laser surgery to telemedicine and sophisticated security systems. I am sure that is why the city has included photonics among its key priorities in its new economic development plan.” – Allan Rock, University of Ottawa

A $55 million photonics center that was expected to break ground on the University of Ottawa campus in March will help fulfill the school’s goal to make Ottawa the global hub of photonics.


Allan Rock


The five-story Centre for Advanced Photonics and Environmental Analysis (CAPEA) will house specialized labs and equipment and will attract the world’s outstanding researchers in the fields, university President Allan Rock said at a mayor’s breakfast sponsored by the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and the Ottawa Business Journal on Feb. 23. The center will also house Canada’s only accelerator mass spectrometer for conducting research in photonics and environmental analysis.

Photonics “is having a transformative impact on our daily lives,” Rock said, “from bar codes to flat-screen televisions, from advanced laser surgery to telemedicine and sophisticated security systems. I am sure that is why the city has included photonics among its key priorities in its new economic development plan.”

Both the university and the Canadian government have been positioning Ottawa as one of the world’s best optics and photonics research centers for several years.


Artist’s representation of what the $55 million University of Ottawa Centre for Advanced Photonics and Environmental Analysis (CAPEA) will look like, as submitted to the City of Ottawa Urban Design Review Panel.


In May 2010, $10 million in government funding allowed the university to recruit quantum optics and photonics pioneer Robert W. Boyd as its inaugural Canada Excellence Research Chair in Quantum Nonlinear Optics.

Boyd was wooed from the University of Rochester, where he had worked for more than 30 years, to establish a world-class quantum nonlinear optics program at Ottawa. One of his first projects at Ottawa was co-organizing the Quantum Photonics Seminar Series, bringing leaders in the field to the university for lectures and discussions.


Robert Boyd


A primary focus of the center’s research program under Boyd is “slow light,” caused when light travels hundreds of times slower than the speed of light in a vacuum.

Slowing light’s speed by using specially fabricated photonic crystals could lead to spectrometers of unprecedented precision for environmental sensing, another key research area for the center.
 
“By using nanostructured materials, we can create novel structures and devices to create slow light, which can have applications in areas like telecommunications and laser radar,” Boyd said.

In November 2011, the university unveiled “Destination 20/20,” its strategic plan for the next decade focusing on research, student experience, internationalization and bilingualism. Among the plan’s research initiatives is CAPEA.

The new center, which has expanded to five stories from the originally planned three, is scheduled to take approximately 18 months to complete.

“We want to make Ottawa the world photonics center. Our goals really have no limits,” Boyd said.



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