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Gérard Mourou is a French pioneer in the field of electrical engineering and lasers. Along with Donna Strickland, he co-invented a technique called chirped pulse amplification, or CPA, which was later used to create ultrashort-pulse, very high-intensity (terawatt) laser pulses. In 1994, Mourou and his team at the University of Michigan discovered that the balance between the self-focusing refraction (see Kerr effect) and self-attenuating diffraction by ionization and rarefaction of a laser beam of terawatt intensities in the atmosphere creates "filaments" which act as waveguides for the beam thus preventing divergence.

He has been the director of the Laboratoire d'Optique Appliquee at the ENSTA (Palaiseau, France) and is a professor at the École Polytechnique (Palaiseau, France). He was the founding director of the Center for Ultrafast Optical Science (CUOS) at the University of Michigan in 1990.

The Center for Ultrafast Optical Science (CUOS) is an interdisciplinary research center in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. CUOS was sponsored as a Science and Technology Center by the National Science Foundation during 1990-2001, and as a College of Engineering Center continues its research in ultrafast optics with funding from a variety of government agencies and industry. Its mission is to perform multidisciplinary research in the basic science and technological applications of ultrashort laser pulses, to educate students from a wide variety of backgrounds in the field, and to spur the development of new technologies.

CUOS researchers develop optical instrumentation and techniques to generate, manipulate, and detect ultrashort and ultrahigh-peak-power light pulses. They use these ultrashort pulses to study ultrafast physical phenomena in atomic, nuclear, plasma, and materials physics, in solid-state electronics, in high-energy-density physics, and in biomedicine.

Ultrafast science & technology is one of the most exciting fields in science and engineering today. Ultrashort laser pulses are the shortest controlled bursts of energy ever developed. Optical pulses of a few femtoseconds (10-15 seconds) duration can be used to probe the fastest events in atomic, molecular, biochemical, and solid-state systems. When amplified to even modest energies, such short pulses can achieve the highest peak powers: the Hercules laser at CUOS holds the world record for on-target laser intensity, at an astonishing 1022 Watts per square centimeter. Ultrashort-pulse fiber lasers enable the highest average powers (100-Watt level) available from pulsed laser systems. These lasers enable a tremendous range of applications in fundamental science and applied technology.

(Wikipedia: Gerard Mourou, CUOS)

Gerard Mourou