Professor Erich P. Ippen, the James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award winner for 2001-2002 will deliver the Killian Award lecture today.
Ippen, the Elihu Thomson Professor of Electrical Engineering and Physics, will speak on "Femtosecond Optics: Quicker than a Flash" at 4 p.m. in the Wong Auditorium, Building E51.
One of the creators of the field of femtosecond optics, Ippen will talk about how ultrafast laser pulses enable researchers to freeze motion on a microscopic level the way Professor Harold "Doc" Edgerton's electronic strobe captured and froze the high-speed motion of speeding bullets and hummingbird wings, on film.
A femtosecond is one billionth of a microsecond. With lasers, scientists are able to produce extremely bright pulses of light that last for only a few femtoseconds. Nothing large enough to see with the naked eye moves at that timescale, but microscopic phenomena inside materials--vibrations of molecules, motion of electrons and initial steps of chemical and biological reactions--do.
"With femtosecond optics, we are able to study such events for the first time. We also are discovering other promising uses for these ultrashort pulses--novel medical imaging, micro-machining, ultra-precise clocks and broadband optical communications," Ippen said.
The Killian Award was established in 1971 to recognize extraordinary professional accomplishments by full-time members of the MIT faculty. A faculty committee chooses the recipient from candidates nominated by their peers for outstanding contributions to their fields, to MIT and to society.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 13, 2002.