Novel Applications of Ultrafast Laser Spectroscopy

Marcos Dantus


58 CEM


Adjunct Professor (Physics)

Research webpage

Primary Research Area

Physical (Ph)

Other Area(s) of Interest

Analytical (An)

Biological (Bi)

Chemical Physics (CP)


(Research Description PDF)

Ultrafast lasers, with pulse durations shorter than 10–13 s — less time than it takes for atoms to move — have already led to Nobel Prizes in Chemistry and Physics. These lasers are ideal for probing and controlling chemical reactions. Our group has three wellfunded thrust areas of scientific leadership: (a) Understanding and controlling chemistry under intense laser field radiation: Exploring molecular dynamics at energies ranging from 1015 to 1020 W/cm2. (b) Biomedical imaging and sensing: Label free biomedical imaging and explosives detection. (c) Development of novel spectroscopic approaches: New laser sources, pulse shapers, and computers will revolutionize how we study chemical reactions. Progress in or research programs requires fundamental advances in science, often questioning established dogmas and accomplishing what others have determined to be impossible.

Understanding and controlling chemistry under intense laser field radiation - High intensity laser light has provided notable advances across a broad range of disciplines including physics, chemistry, medicine, and defense. Our common understanding of light-matter interactions fails at extreme intensities, especially when the field strength of the incident radiation is strong enough to deform the Coulomb potential of the atom and liberate electrons. At intense enough fields those electrons become relativistic, opening up an abundance of novel atomic and molecular processes to investigate. In our lab, we take advantage of laser sources and pulse shaping methods we have developed to understand and to control the dynamics of exotic chemical reactions in gas, liquids, and solids induced by strong laser fields. Our recent projects include study of exotic chemical reactions, such as the formation of H3 +, to explore unlikely chemical processes involving dissociation and formation of multiple chemical bonds, occurring under the influence of strong laser fields.

Mechanism for H3 + formation involving a roaming neutral H2 molecule.


In addition, we explore relativistic pulse compression to achieve high efficiency conversion of femtosecond pulses into attosecond pulses.

Biomedical Imaging and Sensing - Whether the goal is to diagnose and treat retinal diseases or detect oral cancer, the challenge is perfecting chemically resolved imaging. Our group has been pioneering laser technology for unstained biomedical imaging. In both areas, developments from our group are a combination of fundamental scientific advances with source development. We routinely collaborate with a number of medical centers nationally as well as other research groups on MSU’s campus.

Microscopic image of the different retinal layers obtained via multiphotonic transitions excited by our fiber laser.


Development of novel spectroscopic approaches - Our group has revolutionized how ultrashort pulses are measured and compressed (technology patented, commercialized, and used around the world). The fundamental science behind this breakthrough technology is based on coherent control of quantum mechanical process. The technology is known as Multiphoton Intrapulse Interference Phase Scan, and it has allowed the generation of intense (0.5 mJ) sub-two cycle pulses (2008), as well as record performance from ultrafast fiber lasers. Our work on source development includes nonlinear optics studies in particular self-action processes (when the pulse modifies the material and the material modifies the pulse).

Journal cover highlighting our research on biomedical imaging.


Selected Publications

Mechanisms and time-resolved dynamics for trihydrogen cation (H3 +) formation from organic molecules in strong laser fields, N. Ekanayake, M. Nairat, B. Kaderiya, P. Feizollah, B. Jochim, T. Severt, B. Berry, K. Raju P., K.D. Carnes, S. Pathak, D. Rolles, A. Rudenko, I. Ben-Itzhak, C.A. Mancuso, B.S. Fales, J.E. Jackson, B.G. Levine, and M. Dantus, Sci. Rep. 2017, 7, 4703.

Time-resolved signatures across the intramolecular response in substituted cyanine dyes, M. Nairat, M. Webb; M.P. Esch, V.V. Lozovoy, B.G. Levine and M. Dantus, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 2017, 19, 14085-14095.

Eye-safe near-infrared trace explosives detection and imaging, G. Rasskazov, A. Ryabtsev, and M. Dantus, Opt. Express 2017, 25, 5832-5840.

Femtosecond real-time probing of reactions MMXVII: The predissociation of sodium iodide in the A 0+ state, G. Rasskazov, M. Nairat, I. Magoulas, V.V. Lozovoy, P. Piecuch, and M. Dantus, Chem. Phys. Lett. 2017, in press.

Multiphoton excited hemoglobin fluorescence and third harmonic generation for non-invasive microscopy of stored blood, I. Saytashev, R. Glenn, G.A. Murashova, S. Osseiran, D. Spence, C.L. Evans, And M. Dantus, Biomed. Opt. Express 2016, 7, 3449-3460.

Stain-free histopathology by programmable supercontinuum pulses, H. Tu, Y. Liu, D. Turchinovich, M. Marjanovic, J.K. Lyngsø, J. Lægsgaard, E.J. Chaney, Y. Zhao, S. You, W.L. Wilson, B. Xu, M. Dantus and S.A. Boppart, Nat. Photonics 2016, 10, 534-540.


University Distinguished Professor 2015

MSU Foundation Professor 2015

B.A. & M.A., 1985, Brandeis Univ.

Ph.D., 1991, California Institute of Technology

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, 1991-1993, California Institute of Technology.


2016 University Distinguished Professor in Chemistry and Physics Michigan State University
2016 MSU Foundation Professor Michigan State University
2015 Fellow of the American Physical Society
2014 Elected Fellow of the Optical Society of America
2014 Elected Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors
2013 MSU Innovator of the Year award
2010 Science and Technology Awards from Corp! magazine Biophotonic Solutions
2008 Distinguished Faculty Award
2001 Featured in article ACS 125th Anniversary Issue of Chemical and Engineering News
1998 Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
1998 Teacher-Scholar Award Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation
1996 Eli Lilly Teaching Fellowship Michigan State University
1995 Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
1995 Beckman Young Investigator Award Beckman Foundation
1994 General Electric Foundation Faculty Award General Electric
1993 New Faculty Award Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation
1992 Nobel Laureate Signature award for Graduate Education in Chemistry American Chemical Society
1991 Ph.D. California Institute of Technology
1991 - 1993 Postdoctoral Research Fellow California Institute of Technology
1991 Milton and Francis Clauser Doctoral Prize California Institute of Technology
1991 The Herbert Newby McCoy Award California Institute of Technology
1985 Melvin M. Snider Prize in Chemistry Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
1985 Earl C. Anthony Fellowship California Institute of Technology
1985 Bachelor of Arts Magna Cum Laude Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
1985 Phi Beta Kappa Phi Beta Kappa (Brandeis University, Waltham, MA)
1985 M.A. Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
1985 Bachelor of Arts Brandeis University, Waltham, MA