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CFI invests in dark matter and optical science

Two Queen's University physicists awarded $4.8 million in funding.

Queen's University physics researchers Stephen Hughes and Anthony Noble, and their Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) collaborators, were awarded a combined $4.8 million in funding from the CFI Innovation Fund.

Dr. Noble’s team is building a next generation detector, PICO 500L, that will search for dark matter while Dr. Hughes and his CFI collaborators, including co-lead James Fraser, will establish a Queen’s Nanophotonics Research Centre to explore the behaviour of light and light-matter interactions on the nanometre scale.

The funding was announced by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, as part of a CFI investment of more than $554 million in 117 new infrastructure projects at 61 universities, colleges, and research hospitals across Canada.

Anthony Noble (l) and Stephen Hughes have been awarded $4.8 million in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

“This funding is critical to ensuring Queen’s researchers are competitive on the global stage and have the tools necessary to continue their innovative research and technology development,” says John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “As one of the top-ranked research-intensive universities in Canada where physics is an area of institutional research strength, Queen’s will benefit greatly from this investment.”

According to Dr. Hughes, photonics is the science of generating, controlling, and detecting the fundamental particles of light (photons), and is now poised to be a key technological driver of the 21st century in much the same way that electronics were for the 20th century.

“However, as devices and optical structures continue to shrink, we have started to enter a new realm of optical technology termed 'nanophotonics,' wherein the behaviour of light on the nanometre scale, and of the interaction of nanometre-scale objects with light, is substantially different,” explains Dr. Hughes. “We propose to explore and exploit the optical science that will underpin next-generation nano and quantum optical technologies, while unlocking entirely new regimes of light-matter interaction.”

The PICO 500L detector will be located at the SNOLAB facility for astroparticle physics, located two kilometres underground in Sudbury.

“Building on prior success, the international PICO collaboration has embarked on a program to build a next generation detector,” says Dr. Noble, who is also director of the Canada Particle Astrophysics Research Centre. “This detector, PICO 500L, will employ a unique technology that will give it world-leading sensitivity in the search for the mysterious dark matter, which is known to pervade the Universe but has yet to be observed unambiguously on earth.”

For information on the Innovation Fund visit the website.