U.S. Particle Accelerator School

Laser Physics and Technology course

Sponsoring University:

Cornell University


Laser Physics and Technology


Jan L. Chaloupka, College of William and Mary

Purpose and Audience
The purpose of this course is to introduce the students to the physics and technology of lasers, from basic principles to advanced topics. This course is suitable for advanced undergraduates and beginning graduate students, especially those with a limited background in lasers and optics.

Introductory Physics, Modern Physics and Calculus. Some background in Quantum Mechanics, Electromagnetism and Optics is helpful but not required.

This course will explore the basic principles of how lasers work, with a particular emphasis on their design, construction and operation. The fundamental interaction of light with matter will be discussed, and the mechanism for generating and control lasing action will be described. Students will understand how a laser works from first principles and how laser light differs from other forms of radiation. They will also learn how pulsed lasers work, and what limits their pulse width and output power. Finally, they will be introduced to a range of scientific and industrial applications, where the particular qualities of the light output make the laser indispensable.

Instructional Method
The course consists of lectures in both morning and afternoon sessions. Various optics and computer based demonstrations will be incorporated into the lectures, along with group discussions. Problem sets will be assigned to be completed outside of the class sessions.

Course Content
Material will cover an introduction to optics and its terminology, followed by a discussion of the wave and particle nature of light and the quantum mechanical basis for the laser. A historical background of the development of the laser will follow, and concepts such as coherence, atomic energy levels and transitions, inversion and gain, Q-switching and mode-locking will be discussed. The use of chirped-pulse amplification to create ultra-short and ultra-intense laser light will be presented, along with applications in science and industry. An introduction to the use of lasers with accelerators and a brief discussion of free-electron lasers will also be included.

Reading Requirements
(to be provided by the USPAS) "Laser Fundamentals", by William T. Silfvast, Cambridge University Press, 2nd edition, 2004.

Credit Requirements
Students will be evaluated as follows: final exam (40% of final grade), homework assignments (40% of final grade), participation in discussions (20% of final grade).