19 October 2018
On 2 October, French physicist and Professor Emeritus Gérard Mourou received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on lasers. One of the possible applications of his work is to considerably reduce the lifespan of nuclear waste. The physicist, who is a leading researcher at a joint laboratory between École polytechnique and ENSTA ParisTech – two of our Education partners – will start a collaboration with the CEA (the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission) – one of our historical shareholders.
His pledge is to reduce the lifespan of nuclear waste from a million years… to 30 minutes. This step forward in the nuclear sector is much needed, given that nuclear waste management is such a touchy subject. It is one more illustration that the nuclear sector is fast changing.
Inventions being honored this year have revolutionised laser physics. Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland (one of his former PhD students) paved the way towards the shortest and most intense laser pulses ever created by humankind. Using an ingenious approach, they succeeded in creating ultrashort high-intensity laser pulses without destroying the amplifying material. This newly invented technique, called “chirped pulse amplification” (CPA), soon became standard for subsequent high-intensity lasers. Its uses include the millions of corrective eye surgeries that are conducted every year using the sharpest of laser beams.