Today, Gérard Albert Mourou, Professor Haut-Collège at the Ecole Polytechnique and A.D. Moore Distinguished University Emeritus Professor of the University of Michigan (EECS and Applied Physics) won the Nobel Prize in Physics with Arthur Ashkin and Donna Strickland. Professor Mourou has made numerous important contributions in the field of ultra-intense lasers, high-speed electronics as well as in medicine where he introduced the field femtosecond ophthalmology.
The Nobel Prize in Physics 2018 was awarded “for groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics” with one half to Arthur Ashkin “for the optical tweezers and their application to biological systems”, the other half jointly to Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland “for their method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses.”
Professor Mourou’s most important contribution is the invention of the laser amplification technique universally used today and known as Chirped Pulse Amplification (CPA) at the University of Rochester (NY) in 1985.
CPA revolutionized the field of optics because it made possible the generation of extremely high laser intensities that opened a new branch of optics that includes, multiphoton Ionization, attosecond (billionth of a billionth of a second) generation, relativistic optics, where laser-matter interaction is dominated by the relativistic character of the electrons. In the latter, it is possible to make compact particle accelerators, where electrons are accelerated to the Gigaelectron Volt (GeV) over a centimeter or sources of coherent high energy radiation beams. The field of relativistic optics is one of the most active fields of physics today. Professor Mourou, proposed the new research infrastructure called ELI (Extreme Light Infrastructure). ELI, is distributed over three pillars located in Czech Republic, Romania, and Hungary, where they will host the most intense lasers in the world.
While at the University of Michigan he was the Director for the Center for Ultrafast Optical Science and Co-Director of the FOCUS frontier center which he started in the Department of Physics.
Professor Mourou has also many other interests. In particular, he pioneered the field of femtosecond ophthalmology at the University of Michigan. In this application, the femtosecond laser is used to perform precise cuts for myopia correction or corneal transplants. Today more than one million patients have received the femtosecond procedure.
Professor Mourou is a Member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, foreign member of the Russian Science Academy, Austrian Sciences Academy and of the Lombardy Academy for Sciences and Letters. Most recently, he is the recipient of the American Physical Society’s 2018 Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Science among many other distinctions.