Physics Department Seminar
Dr. Thomas Koffas
Associate Professor
Carleton University
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

How hard can light punch?

Reaching for the brightest light and the physics that can be done with it

Modern Quantum Electrodynamics (aka QED) has been extremely successful in describing the interactions of light with matter as long as the fields involved remain weak. But nature tends to be much more exciting than that and ultra-strong electromagnetic fields do exist. They can be found in the interior of large planets or white dwarfs. They form the central engines of supernovae and gamma ray bursts and of the energy extraction from black holes. They appear in inertial confinement fusion implosions and in the lattices of highly compressed solids. In short, ultra-strong fields pop-up everywhere, however, their effects remain poorly understood due to the lack of laboratory-based experiments. This is about to change with the advent of high-intensity lasers that can produce light pulses with focused intensities greater than that at the center of the sun and which can deliver peak powers of almost 100 times that of the world’s consumption rate.

So, how hard can these bright light pulses punch? What can we learn by using them? This talk will attempt to answer these questions and highlight the beginnings of a new exciting era in physics research.