Physics and Space Science News and Events

$10 Million in New Research Funding Shared by RMC Faculty Member


Prof. Kristine Spekkens is part of a research team that has secured a $10 million CFI Innovation Fund award for the development of a radio astronomy data centre.

The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder Credit: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

The project, led by Dunlap Institute Director Prof. Bryan Gaensler, will build the infrastructure, computing capability, and expertise needed to process the overwhelming flood of information being produced by next-generation radio telescopes. The goal is to turn raw data into images and catalogues that astronomers can use to investigate cosmic magnetism, the evolution of galaxies, cosmic explosions, and more. It will also help build the Canadian capacity needed to participate in what will be the largest and most powerful radio telescope ever constructed: the Square Kilometre Array.  For Spekkens, the award consists of $0.5 million from CFI, provincial and other partners to model the gas distributions in Milky Way-type galaxies mapped with CSIRO’s  Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP).

The annual CFI Innovation Fund awards support transformative and innovative research or technology development in areas where Canada currently is, or has the potential to be, competitive at a global level.

The awards were announced today by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, in a ceremony at the University of Manitoba, 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.

Atomic gas velocity map for a nearby spiral galaxy, M33. The colours correspond to Doppler redshifts and blueshifts relative to the center of mass. Credit: National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO)

For further information, please contact:

Prof. Kristine Spekkens
Department of Physics and Space Science
Royal Military College of Canada
Telephone: 613-541-6000 x 6340
Prof. Bryan Gaensler, Director
Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics
University of Toronto
Telephone: 416-978-6223
Chris Sasaki
Communications Coordinator | Press Officer
Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics
University of Toronto
Telephone: 416-978-6613
Web: Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics
Malorie Bertrand
Media Relations and Social Media Specialist
Canada Foundation for Innovation
Telephone: 613-943-2580
Web: Canada Foundation for Innovation

Nanosats of the BRITE space mission reveal the origins of fundamental structures in the wind of the supergiant star Zeta Puppis


A Canadian-led international team of astronomers recently discovered for the first time observational evidence explaining how features at the surface of the hot massive supergiant star Zeta Puppis induce the formation of fundamental structures in its wind.

The research team used the network of nanosatellites of the BRIght Target Explorer (BRITE) space mission - of which RMC Physics and Space Science Department Head Gregg Wade is the Canadian PI - to monitor the visible brightness changes coming from the surface of Zeta Puppis over about six months, and simultaneously monitored the behavior of the wind of the star from several ground-based professional and amateur observatories.

For more information, see the press release at the Center for Research in Astrophysics of Quebec.

Artist’s impression of the hot massive supergiant Zeta Puppis.
The rotation period of the star indicated by the new BRITE observations is 1.78 d, and its spin axis is inclined by (24 ± 9)° with respect to the line of sight.
Image credit: Tahina Ramiaramanantsoa

Novel diffraction grating based biosensor


Dr. Ribal Georges Sabat from the Department of Physics at the Royal Military College of Canada, along with Dr. Carlos Escobedo and his PhD student, Srijit Nair, both from Queen’s university at Kingston, developed a light-based bio-molecular sensor for protein binding detection in fluids, via measuring a very small refractive index change of the fluid. This biosensor will prove very useful in biomedical applications because it allows the detection of very small concentrations of toxins or other biological molecules in liquids. The team used a unique sensing approach that enables the measurement in transmission mode of surface plasmon resonance signals only, while cancelling all other transmitted light. The broadband light intensity passing through the fabricated biosensor was found to be zero except in the narrow bandwidth where a surface plasmon resonance energy conversion occurs, enabling quantitative monitoring of only the plasmonic signal from bio-molecular interactions. The results from this study demonstrate the label-free detection of biotin-streptavidin binding in real-time, with a much-improved sensitivity (+3-fold) compared to previously reported biosensors. This new biosensor was cheap (less than 10 cents per unit) and easy to fabricate. It is believed that this is a significant advancement in plasmonic based sensing in a world that is evolving towards the use of diagnostics tools based on portable electronics.

New biosensorLow-cost nanoplasmonic (bio)sensor based on crossed surface relief gratings (CSRGs) on gold-coated azo-glass substrate.

More details about this discovery are found at: Crossed Surface Relief Gratings as Nanoplasmonic Biosensors.