The Institute of Optics


Colloquia & Guest Speakers


Foute to Zeptoscinece

Gérard Mourou, IZEST Ecole Polytechnique, France

Monday, March 9, 2015
3:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.
Goergen 101, Sloan Auditorium


The possibility of amplifying laser pulses to extreme peak power offers a new paradigm for unifying the atomic and subatomic worlds, including nuclear physics, high-energy physics, astrophysics and cosmology. After describing a technique to generate zeptosecond pulses with exawatt to zettawatt power in the x-ray and g-ray regimes, we will review promising applications. They will include giant particle acceleration to the level of TeV/cm providing a means to go beyond the Standard Model, as well as to access nonlinear quantum electrodynamics (NLQED), to understand extreme energy cosmic acceleration (EECR) and to reveal Dark Matter.

The recent introduction of a thin-film pulse compression concept [1] opens the door to achieving high-energy, single-cycle laser pulses, which in turn enables single-cycle, x-ray pulses. This development stimulated the concept of wakefield acceleration in solid materials, such as carbon nanotubes [2], which promises to boost accelerating electric fields from GeV to TeV per cm, and decrease the size of the interaction domain from microns to nanometers,  and the time scales from femtoseconds to zeptoseconds.



Gérard A. Mourou is member of the Haut Collège at the École Polytechnique(France) and A.D. Moore Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is also Director of the new center IZEST (International Center for Zettawatt-Exawatt Science and Technology) at the École Polytechnique. He was born in Albertville, Savoie and studied at the University of Grenoble, license de Physique (1967), and Paris VI, Thèse de 3ème cycle (1970) and Doctorat es Science (1973).

He spent much of his career in the U.S (30 years). He served notably at the University of Rochester (NY) and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (MI). At the University of Michigan, he was the A.D. Moore Distinguished University Professor of Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics. At the same university he was the founder of the National Science Foundation Center of Excellence known as the Center for Ultrafast Optical Science, CUOS. Gérard Mourou is a member of the National Academy of Engineering (USA). He is also a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, as well as those of Austria and Lombardy. Gérard Mourou is recognized worldwide for his work in ultrafast science and technology. He has made major contributions covering the field of electronics, optoelectronics, archeology and medicine. In ophthalmology his work on the cornea resulted in IntraLASIK technology which is marketed by IntraLase and used on more than 5 million patients. His most notable works were focused on laser physics, where he invented a revolutionary method of laser amplification now included in all high intensity lasers. This technique, called Chirped Pulse Amplification (CPA), has made possible the increase in laser peak power by a factor of 10^3 to 10^6 and has been the gateway to the attosecond regime and nonlinear relativistic interactions.

Upon his return to France he proposed the creation of a major European scientific collaborative project, the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI). It is based in three countries: the Czech Republic, Romania, and Hungary. The ELI is dedicated to the production of the most powerful laser pulses ever produced. They will be used to study the interaction of the laser with the quantum vacuum up to the pair creation in order to study its components and texture.