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Ultrafast control of quantum systems by strong laser fields

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Innovation and training in ultrafast quantum dynamics

An EU-funded initiative is training young researchers in the domain of advanced techniques for the ultrafast manipulation of atoms and molecules using strong femtosecond laser pulses. With a consortium of European universities and companies involved, the effort represents the cutting edge of research in this field which has a wide range of applications.

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The use of strong shaped femtosecond laser pulses – ultra short pulses in the order of 10−15 seconds – opens a novel avenue to control quantum dynamics via hitherto inaccessible physical mechanisms. However, these new scenarios require the development of novel versatile femtosecond sources in the ultraviolet radiation (UV) and vacuum ultraviolet radiation (VUV) range of high shaping capabilities. The ‘Ultrafast control of quantum systems by strong laser fields’ (Fastquast) project has gathered together leading experts from Europe to push research and training in this field. With 18 doctoral students and 6 young post-doctoral researchers involved, the initiative is preparing the next generation of innovators and developing new principles of control of quantum dynamics by shaped strong fields. The initiative includes a number of specialised workgroups as well as several minischools and workshops focusing on the elementary and advanced principles of quantum control. Areas of specific research and experimentation include nuclear and electron wavepacket dynamics, the principles of strong-field coherent control by shaped pulses, the measurement and stabilisation of cold atoms and molecules and ultrafast information processing. In addition to the technical scientific training, there have also been sessions building the complimentary skills of the young researchers, including aspects such as project management, presentation, project planning and management. With the involvement of 10 universities and 3 companies, the network represents the leading players working in the field of femtosecond light-matter interaction in Europe. The initiative will continue to advance training and research in this area and build collaborative working relationships that will outlive the project, which ends in September 2012.

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