In collaboration with the Royal Canadian Mint, researchers from the CRPuO have developed a new surface mirror technology being applied to coins and a new COVID-19 recognition medal

Posted on Friday, July 17, 2020

The Centre for Research in Photonics at the University of Ottawa has been involved in a fruitful collaboration with the Royal Canadian Mint. Under the direction of CRPuO member Prof. Arnaud Weck, this collaboration initially led to a cutting-edge laser-colouring process applied to coins to tint metal without dyes or pigments (you can read more about this technology here).

Silver coin with a maple leaf in the centre sitting in a red box

Pulsating Maple Leaf (Royal Canadian Mint, 2020a)

Building on this work, CRPuO post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Jaspreet Walia (under the supervision of Prof. Weck and CRPuO Director Prof. Pierre Berini) has developed a surface mirror technology that, when integrated on coins, creates a pulsating effect. This technology, which is an application of photonics, was used to design a Pulsating Maple Leaf coin released earlier this year by the Mint.

“The technology works by creating sub-millimeter-scale mirrors on the coins. These mirrors are engineered to exact dimensions and orientations, then engraved on the coining dies used to strike the mirror array into the pure silver blanks. The result: the Silver Maple Leaf on the coin’s reverse appears to expand and contract when you tilt the coin, giving the impression that the maple leaf is pulsating.” (Royal Canadian Mint, 2020a).

Silver coin with a heart in the centre

2020 Recognition Medal (Royal Canadian Mint, 2020b)

Based on the same technology, the Mint has now issued a medal in recognition of COVID-19 workers, using the technology to render a “pulsating heart”. “This special medal pays tribute to the tremendous contributions of essential workers in all fields across Canada, as well as Canadians who are keeping people safe, healthy and connected as we face the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.” (Royal Canadian Mint, 2020b).

The net proceeds from sales of this medal will be donated to the Breakfast Club of Canada Emergency Fund, which helps to support Canadian children and their families who face food insecurity.

You will find the related uOttawa news story "Pulsating Heart: When Photonics meets Minting" here

Congratulations to all involved in the development of this exciting new technology, and a special thanks to the Royal Canadian Mint for their recognition of COVID-19 emergency workers and their support of a well-deserving charity for children.


Royal Canadian Mint (2020a, July 17). 2 oz. Pure Silver Coin - Pulsating Maple Leaf - Mintage: 3,000 (2020).

Royal Canadian Mint (2020b, July 17). 2020 Recognition Medal & Magnet.

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