Project Title

Large scale simulation of nanostructured optical surfaces


Lora Ramunno and Pierre Berini, University of Ottawa

Industry partner

Royal Canadian Mint

Supported by

SOSCIP, IBM Canada Ltd., FedDev, NSERC

Advanced Manufacturing

Researchers at the University of Ottawa and the Royal Canadian Mint are collaborating to better understand how to explain the rich colours recently created on Canadian coins using lasers. 

The research stems from a technique used by the Royal Canadian Mint to add colour to metal surfaces, without the need for adding dyes or paints.

“While they had a pretty good empirical knowledge of how to get a desired colour, it was not understood why a chaotic, disordered array of nanometer-sized particles produced such a reliable colour,” explained Lora Ramunno, an associate professor with the University of Ottawa and a Canada Research Chair in Computational Nanophotonics.

“I recognized there was a large role for computer simulation to bring about that understanding and our team had the skills to be able to do that.”

Prof. Ramunno used SOSCIP’s IBM BGQ supercomputer to run large-scale computations to better understand how light interacts with matter at nanoscale dimensions.

With a patent application underway, Prof. Ramunno credits SOSCIP for providing access to machines that she describes as “unparalleled in Canada.”

“SOSCIP facilitates research that wouldn’t otherwise be possible,” she said. “We can run computer simulations on thousands of processors at once that we would not have been able to do otherwise.

“It also provided us with the funding to bring in highly-qualified people to work on our projects. We received funding to hire an outstanding post-doctoral fellow from Italy, Antonio Cala Lesina.

Cala Lesina says he feels grateful to be part of the team and that SOSCIP has provided “everything that a computational researcher could ask for.”

“I love understanding the concept of how light interacts with materials. The process produces visually striking metallic surfaces, but it’s also a complex, interesting problem from a research point of view as well,” explained Prof. Ramunno.

Understanding the science behind the colour could produce many future innovative applications for advanced manufacturing in Canada and beyond.

Prof. Ramunno and her team are looking at other new processes, for applications such as biosensing, to discover how a surface can change colour based on its environment.

Prof. Ramunno’s research team includes Pierre Berini, a University Research Chair in Surface Plasmon Photonics and director of the Centre for Research in Photonics, as well as Arnaud Weck, associate professor in mechanical engineering, whose research group created these colours on coins for the Royal Canadian Mint.