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Making and Using Ultra-High Power and Ultra-Short Pulse Lasers

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Peter Humphreys.

After Theodore Maiman built the first working laser in 1960 it was described as a “solution looking for a problem”. Today 50 years after it’s invention the laser finds uses in an extraordinarily broad range of applications ranging from high precision medical imaging and surgery to optical communication, range finding and industrial welding. Lasers also underpin many scientific instruments, and in some cases entire disciplines in areas such as ultra-fast measurement and the creation of extreme states of matter. In this lecture we will look at the physics that governs the operation of lasers, and how research continues to extend the capabilities of laser systems for cutting edge experiments. Two extremes of laser performance will be explored, high-power pulsed lasers which are now able to reach peak powers of 1 Petawatt (10E15 W) and “ultra-fast” laser systems which can now access timescales less that 100 Attoseconds (10E-16 sec). A unifying theme in both these areas is the need to find innovative ways to overcome non-linear optical processes that if left to their own devices would destroy a high-power laser. The prize is the ability to produce and study matter in the laboratory that would otherwise only be found in supernova remnants or the cores of Jovian planets, or to probe the most fundamental processes of electron dynamics that occur in atoms and molecules.

There will be a wine reception after the talk with the guest speaker.

Free for members, £2 for non-members.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Physics Society series.

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