The Center for Ultrafast Optical Science (CUOS) at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor was sponsored as one of 25 Science and Technology Centers through the National Science Foundation. Its purposes are to perform multidisciplinary laser research, to educate students, to conduct outreach activities toward underrepresented minorities, and to spur the development of new technologies.
CUOS researchers develop optical equipment 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, and in high-energy-density physics.
Ultrafast Science & Technology is one of the most exciting fields in science and engineering today. It encompasses a wide body of disciplines from nuclear physics to astrophysics with applications ranging from communications to medical surgery. Examples of ultrafast science & technology include: optical communication that already relies on Terabits (300 fs pulses), high-speed electronics (0.5 THz), materials science with micromachining, laser deposition, physics with relativistic plasmas, accelerator beam physics, nuclear physics, high-energy physics, astrophysics, cosmology, medical applications in eye surgery, precision radiography, and hadron therapy.
CUOS under the joint sponsorship of NSF, UM, CoE and the State of Michigan has been one of the main protagonists of this ultrafast optics revolution. For ten years, CUOS has been a unique and well-recognized multidisciplinary platform. Not only has its research activity been excellent, but also its contribution to education has been exemplary: More than 100 Ph.D. students have been trained in CUOS laboratories. In addition, CUOS has contributed to developing industries based on its discoveries and inventions. Four companies have been started by former CUOS scientists: Picometrix (fast detectors, S. Williamson and J. Valmanis), Clark-MXR (scientific lasers and micromachining, P. Bado), Translume (waveguide optics, P. Bado) and Intralase (precision surgery, R. Kurtz and T. Juhasz). CUOS has also attracted companies to Ann Arbor such as IMRA-America which has become a leading company in short-pulse lasers. These companies have created more than 200 high level jobs (120 for Intralase alone) and developed an industry with Ann Arbor as its hub. This new industry is in great need of qualified personnel in the ultrafast area and relies on CUOS to attract outstanding scientists to Ann Arbor and to train students. The companies have attracted more than $10M over the past ten years in SBIR Programs (NSF Small Business Innovation Research) that has contributed to boosting the research and development of start-up companies.
Three years ago, CUOS was helpful in attracting one of the NSF Physics Frontier Centers to the University of Michigan, FOCUS (Frontiers in Optical Coherent and Ultrafast Science). As a part of FOCUS, CUOS is building a petawatt laser which will be the highest peak-power laser among U.S. universities (see HERCULES). This system will make it possible to produce the highest intensity ever focused on target. The high-intensity program is being run in collaboration with the University of Texas at Austin and is the largest university program on ultrahigh-field science in the U.S. Other major programs in the pipeline include: Femtosecond Material Modification, Eye Surgery, and X-Ray Mammography.
Two years ago, CUOS added lab space in the newly-built Gerstacker Building which houses the Department of Biomedical Engineering and research space for the Department of Materials Science & Engineering. The addition of these departments next to CUOS is greatly helping to facilitate growing interdisciplinary research efforts in optics, imaging, nanotechnology, biomaterials, and tissue engineering.
Over the past years, CUOS has been able to crystallize an impressive number of faculty around the theme of Ultrafast Science and Engineering. It is now one of the most important research efforts at the University of Michigan.
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