The Institute of Optics

News & Events


Extreme Optical Physics: Light & matter interaction in the relativistic limit

Dr. Robin Marjoribanks University of Toronto

Monday, December 3, 2012
3:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.
Sloan Auditorium

Some of the most interesting experiments in the interaction of light and matter in the last decade have been those that have pushed at the limits of what conditions can be produced in the laboratory, under a kind of assumption that interesting things often appear in looking where no-one previously could go.  Ultra-intense few-cycle laser pulses now can have electric fields which are many orders of magnitude greater than the Coulomb field of hydrogen, taking optical physics far past the perturbative limit and into wildly nonlinear regimes where electron motion is always relativistic and solid-density matter is heated from room temperature to tens of millions of degrees in femtoseconds.
Qualitative milestones mark the route that has brought us to a new regime of physics;  I'll outline the main conceptual thresholds, and describe what we and our intense-interaction colleagues have recently accomplished in the lab, including things like producing harmonics of the laser frequency over hundreds of orders, or attosecond pulses having bandwidth spanning visible through x-ray, as well as new prospects for future particle accelerators, or for igniting laser-fusion.


Born in Toronto, Dr. Marjoribanks did most of his high school in Ottawa, where a fantastic program run by Ken Crouch, Brian Stokoe and Roger Taguchi at Hillcrest H.S. made all the difference in the world in his interest and enrichment in Physics.  He continued to do Math & Physics Specialist studies at U of T, and worked a couple of summers at the National Research Council in Laser and Plasma Physics. He then started graduate studies at UCLA, touched base again at U of T for his first MSc, then did another MS en route to his PhD '88 at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics. He's been at the University of Toronto ever since.