October 2001

From University of Michigan

Opitcal coherent and ultrafast science

NSF funds $15 million physics center at U-M.

ANN ARBOR---The development of the basic scientific advances and applications that will transform society in the next two decades---in areas as diverse as nanotechnology, nuclear science and medicine---received a boost recently when the National Science Foundation announced the establishment of a Physics Frontier Center at the University of Michigan. The project is funded with $15 million over a five-year period.

Called FOCUS---Frontiers in Optical Coherent and Ultrafast Science---the center is expected to give leading researchers in a variety of fields the opportunity to work together and share knowledge. "We're looking at areas that cover a tremendous range of scientific disciplines," said center director Philip Bucksbaum. "But while they seem very different, the one thing they have in common is the need for a high degree of control, usually through laser light. Often they require ultrafast lasers with very short pulses, sometime on the scale of single optical cycles."

FOCUS includes 19 faculty and research scientists at the U-M and the University of Texas. Its mission is to provide leadership in coherent control in quantum, ultrafast and high-field physics. "Many of the leading researchers in these fields are already at these two schools. That certainly helped our case with NSF," Bucksbaum said.

Work in the center will be divided into three major research components:

--High Field Control will explore the frontier of intense-laser development, relativistic nonlinear optics, laser-driven plasma physics and cluster physics. Potential applications include nuclear science, astrophysics, accelerators, material science and medicine.

--Ultrafast Control: Measurement and Coherent Control will develop ultrafast optical pulse sculpting and advance the frontiers of coherent control. This work is expected to produce advances that will be useful in the coherent control of molecular dynamics, control of electrical current in semiconductors, control of phonons in crystals, and the coherent modulation of x-radiation.

--Quantum Control: Controlling Quantum Coherence will push the limits of quantum complexity and quantum fidelity toward large-scale quantum information processing. This new quantum technology is absolutely necessary for practical applications of quantum information science. Bucksbaum hopes to use the broad range of expertise within FOCUS to progress in several areas including ion traps, cooled atoms, Rydberg states and quantum wave packet sculpting.

Sharing knowledge is central to the center's mission, Bucksbaum said, and a number of mechanisms will be employed to disseminate information. These include traditional publications and also a virtual journal that will quickly distribute new research results. FOCUS also operates a visitors program, which will give researchers at other institutions access to the state-of-the-art high-field laser systems developed in the center as well as encourage collaborations and cross-fertilization of ideas.

For more information about FOCUS, send questions or comments via email to mamurn@umich.edu or visit the center's Web site at http://www.umich.edu/~focuspfc/main.html.











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