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Media Advisory

October 20, 2011 For immediate release


Ottawa, October 20, 2011 – "Optical Guitars: Sound and Light," an exhibit that profiles how Canadian-led research in fibre-optics is leading innovation in music opened today at the Canada Science and Technology Museum. Produced in partnership with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the largest federal funding agency for research in the natural sciences and engineering, the exhibit looks at how fibre optic cabling can be used in both an acoustic and electric guitar to generate music from light waves. The exhibit features the research of Canada Research Chair in Future Photonics Systems, Dr. Raman Kashyap of the École Polytechnique of Montreal and of Dr. Hans-Peter Loock of Queen's University (Kingston).

"The economy of tomorrow relies on the innovation and creativity of researchers such as Dr. Kashyap and Dr. Loock," said the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology). "As a result of investments provided by the Government of Canada, researchers can achieve ingenious breakthroughs that contribute to economic growth, job creation and a higher quality of life for Canadians."

The acoustic photonic guitar is strung with fibre-optic cabling, which when strummed, creates a light wave. The light signal is converted by digital equipment into sound. While it looks mostly like a traditional guitar, the instrument produces a richer, acoustic sound, allowing guitarists to mix with greater accuracy. For both researchers, the instruments were extensions of their other research interests.

"I started this project hoping to create a lighter cello for my daughter," says Dr. Kashyap. "It has spun off into new understandings of the potential of fibre-optic technologies."

"Originally, I was looking to create a proof of concept for some of my other work in vibrational sensors, and I thought, 'hey let's demonstrate it through music, something everyone understands,'" says Dr. Loock. "The concept worked and today we are working on commercializing this technology into mainstream guitar manufacturing." Visitors to the exhibit will be able to experience this unique musical technology first hand, by strumming a mock guitar that generates sound waves.

For NSERC, the exhibit is part of the Council's ongoing commitment to highlight the work done by the Canadian researchers. "In celebrating the achievements of Dr. Kashyap and Dr. Loock we want to emphasize not only the value innovation brings to our economy and society, but the incredible role scientific discovery plays in enriching our lives and expanding the imagination of young people to the possibilities of scientific discovery," said Dr. Suzanne Fortier, President of NSERC.

These achievements were supported by the Canadian Institute for Photonic Innovations (CIPI), a Network of Centres of Excellence funded by NSERC. "Having a demonstration of two CIPI-funded projects during the National Science and Technology Week is a great way to emphasize the truly enabling and transformative power of photonics. We rarely have the chance to highlight its potential in a way that is both fun and easy to understand", said CIPI President Mr. Robert Corriveau.

"The Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation is really proud of this partnership with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The beauty of this exhibition is that it links science and technology with music and culture." said Denise Amyot, President and CEO of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation. "As keepers of Canada's scientific and technological collection, we encourage all Canadians to engage with their scientific and technological past, present and future."

The exhibit opened as part of National Science and Technology Week, a celebration taking place around Canada to showcase our national excellence in science and innovation. NSERC and the Museum are working on two other exhibits, set to open in the winter and late spring of 2012.

About the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
NSERC is a federal agency that helps make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for all Canadians. The agency supports some 30,000 postsecondary students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding more than 12,000 professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging more than 1,500 Canadian companies to participate and invest in postsecondary research projects.

About Canada Science and Technology Museum
Sharing Canada's rich collections of objects related to transportation, natural resources, communications, space, energy, manufacturing and industry, the Canada Science and Technology Museum helps Canadians explore the rich connections among science, technology, and culture.

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Media contact:

Marjorie Vallée
Media and Public Affairs Officer
Canada Science and Technology Museum
Tel.: 613-990-2804
E-mail: mvallee@technomuses.ca

Martin Leroux
Media and Public Affairs Officer
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Tel.: 613-943-7618
E-mail: media@nserc-crsng.gc.ca

Gary Toft
Director of Communications
Office of the Honourable Gary Goodyear
Minister of State (Science and Technology)