The University Record, January 21, 2002

Mourou will give 2002 Russel Lecture on laser technology

By Mary Jo Frank
Office of Communications

Mourou (Photo by Bill Wood, U-M Photo Services)
Gerard A. Mourou, the A.D. Moore Distinguished University Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has been chosen as the 2002 Henry Russel Lecturer. The annual lectureship is the highest honor the University gives to a senior faculty member.

Mourou’s selection was announced by the Regents at their Jan. 17 meeting. He will deliver the Russel Lecture at 4 p.m. March 12 at the Michigan League. The title of his lecture is “Ultra-High Intensity Lasers: A Revolutionary Tool in Engineering, Physics and Medicine.”

Mourou, who joined the faculty in 1988, created and has directed the U-M’s Center for Ultrafast Optical Science (CUOS) since it was established with a grant from the National Science Foundation in 1991. Scientists at CUOS produce, study and apply unbelievably short optical impulses—the shortest of these is in the femtosecond range, lasting for just a few quadrillionths of a second, or the time required for the light to go through a blood cell.

Recognized internationally as a leader in ultrafast optics research, Mourou is credited with many firsts in this rapidly evolving field. He invented the chirped-pulse laser amplification technique, which has increased the power of lasers more than a thousand-fold. Because of this technique, the power that can be delivered by a table-top laser over this short time is more than the power generated by a thousand Boulder Dams. This technique revolutionized laser matter interaction and has opened a new field known as strong field laser physics that has found important applications in atomic physics, nuclear physics and high-energy physics. More than a thousand scientists around the world are working in this area.

Mourou’s lasers have found some important real world applications, especially in the field of surgery. He and colleagues from the Kellogg Eye Center opened the field of femtosecond surgery, demonstrating that these short pulses can remove tissue without causing collateral damage. The laser is used as a high precision scalpel in eye surgery for photorefractive surgery and corneal transplants. CUOS has created many spin-off companies, including Picometrix in Ann Arbor, specializing in telecommunication; Clark-MXR in Ann Arbor, which makes scientific laser and micro-machining units; and Intralase in Irvine, Calif., which is developing femtosecond photorefractive instruments for eye surgery.

Mourou holds more than 20 patents.

The Russel Lectureship and the annual Russel Award for junior faculty members were established in 1925 with a bequest from Henry Russel of Detroit, who received three degrees from the U-M.