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Optical and Laser Physics

Using light as a probe to learn about the microscopic electromagnetic behavior of novel materials and the thermodynamics of plasma

Since the advent of the laser, optics has become one of the fastest growing areas in physics. It is a cross-cutting discipline due to the wide range of applications in science and technology. 

Some applications are as simple as barcode readers, others relate to more sophisticated consumer electronics, sensing tools or spectroscopy. At the other extreme, lasers can be used to perform quantum optical measurements, precise surgery and have even been proposed for the generation of nuclear fusion.  

In our department optics and laser science are employed by a variety of groups with different research aims. Researchers are optically probing the interactions of biomolecules, developing and characterizing optoelectronic and photonic materials, studying interfaces in magnetic and multiferroic materials, exploring plasma dynamics and optical trapping of atoms. 

Several groups use short laser pulses to capture fast phenomena in different physical systems and phases of matter on nanoseconds or femtosecond time scales. Intense laser pulses are being used for high-resolution optical microscopy by exploiting nonlinear optical effects, for generating radiation in regions of the electromagnetic spectrum that are difficult to access, and for probing magnetic and crystal order. The coherent properties of laser light are also used to control quantum optical processes. In addition, the structure and defects in optical materials are characterized by non-optical methods, e.g. electro-paramagnetic resonance, magnetic resonance imaging and x-ray diffraction.