Laser Physics and Optical Sciences

Laser Physics and Optical Sciences

Participating Faculty: Hector Baldis, Richard Freeman, Jonathan Heritage, Brian Kolner, Denise Krol

The field of optics is one of the oldest and most important branches of the sciences. Long before the theory of electromagnetism was developed, optical phenomena were studied, characterized, and used as probes of nature. Since the invention of the laser a half-century ago, this tool has become the preeminent source for all studies involving light. It too has revolutionized countless areas of high technology including telecommunications, data storage, semiconductor manufacturing, healthcare technology, metrology, imaging, and more.

The Department of Applied Science has a long tradition of fundamental research, education, and contributions in both the science of lasers as sources and the applications of light from lasers. DAS faculty working in optical science have diverse research interests ranging from laser fusion to high speed optical information processing. Laser fusion is a very important topic and the objective of the National Ignition Facility located at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Our research deals with the interaction of intense laser pulses with matter and several of our students and faculty conduct their research at LLNL and other laboratories worldwide with similar large laser systems. We are also studying new laser materials for improved efficiency and greater energy extraction, as well as for generating light at new wavelengths.

Lasers play an important role in healthcare technology as diagnostic probes of the human body, as tools to facilitate therapy and as probes of hazardous materials and biological agents. We have research projects and ongoing collaborations with other institutions, such as LLNL and the UC Davis Medical Center.

Another area of active research in DAS is the creation and manipulation of ultra-short light pulses. Today some lasers are capable of creating pulses of light just a few cycles in duration. These femto- and picosecond pulses have tremendous value for studying basic properties of matter at the molecular level. The short duration of these pulses also makes them nearly ideal for research in optical telecommunications because complex sequences of pulses can be created to simulate very high data rates. Ultra-short light pulses possess large bandwidths and this spectral energy can be converted to other wavelengths such as the terahertz region or x-rays. We currently have ongoing research projects in terahertz generation and spectroscopy and short pulse x-ray generation.

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