Prof. G. Mourou's Program:

High and Ultra-High Intensity lasers: Physics of the Extreme

High-Intensity Lasers and Applications (Part I)


Gérard Mourou

Over the past 10 years, we have seen a revolution in the generation of intense and ultraintense laser pulses, where not only has the laser peak power increased by 4–6 orders of magnitude to reach petawatt levels, but also the laser average power has increased by an impressive 3 orders of magnitude.

In this first lecture we will cover (1) the fundamental principles behind the generation and the amplification of ultrashort pulses, and (2) their applications, such as high harmonic generation, micromachining, laser epitaxy, and precision surgery.


Ultrahigh Intensity Laser: Physics of the Extreme (Part 2)


Gérard A. Mourou.


Over the past 10 years, laser intensities have increased by more than four orders of magnitude to reach enormous intensities of 1020 W/cm2. The field strength at these intensities is of the order of a teravolt/centimeter, or 100 times the Coulombic field binding the ground-state electron in the hydrogen atom. The electrons driven by such a field are relativistic, with an oscillatory energy of 10 MeV. At these intensities, the light pressure, P = 2I/c, is extreme, of the order of giga- to terabars. The laser interacting with matter—gas, solid, plasma— generates high-order harmonics of the incident laser up to the 30-Å range, energetic ions or electrons with mega-electron-volt energy, gigagauss magnetic fields, and violent accelerations of 1020 g, where g is earth gravity. Finally, the interaction of an ultraintense beam with superrelativistic particles can produce fields greater than the critical field. In these conditions nonlinear quantum electrodynamical effects can be observed. In many ways, this physical environment of extreme fields, pressure, magnetic field, temperature, and acceleration can only be found in stellar interiors or close to the horizon of a black hole. It is fascinating to think that an astrophysical environment governed by hydrodynamics, radiation transport, and gravitational interaction could be re-created in university laboratories for an extremely short time.