Some of the world’s best laser physicists were on campus last month for the 21st annual International Laser Physics Workshop (LPHYS’12) – the leading international conference in the field of laser physics.
Since they were invented about 50 years ago, lasers have entered virtually every sphere of life – from laser pointers and audio laser players to scalpels and ballistic missiles ― according to Alexander Lvovsky, the conference organizer and a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the Faculty of Science.
“Cutting-edge research in laser physics gives us precise geo-positioning, remote sensing, more accurate weather forecasts, revolutionary visualization techniques, absolutely secure communications and new tools of disease treatment,” says Lvovsky.
About 400 physicists – a third of whom were students – came from 30 different countries for the conference. They heard from leading international laser researchers on topics ranging from attosecond physics and biophotonics to physics of cold trapped atoms and quantum information science.
The meeting covered the technology of lasers and their applications. Applications include studying living organisms and treating diseases, cooling atoms to almost absolute zero temperature and investigating their properties, developing super-precise clocks and putting together a quantum computer.
The former Soviet Union was strong in laser physics research. Two out of the three winners of the 1964 Nobel Prize for the invention of the laser are Soviet physicists.
“When the Soviet Union collapsed in the early ’90s, the conference was established to support Russian laser physicists and ensure their exposure to leading research in the field,” says Lvovsky. “It used to feature discounted conference fees and travel support for Russian participants, but the workshop has grown to major international scale and is now attended by the highest calibre scientists from all over the world.”
Lvovsky says the conference is still an important opportunity for collaboration between Russian and international scientists, and up to 20 per cent of the conference participants come from Russia.