Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics

Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics

The work of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics focuses on investigating the quantum world with laser light. The physicists employ complex facilities comprising many optical components, such as mirrors and lenses, to trap and manipulate systems of quantum particles right down to individual atoms or molecules. They are thus laying the foundations for the quantum computers of the future, at the same time gaining insight into new types and exotic states of quantum matter. By generating ultra-short and high-intensity flashes of light the scientists can observe and control the motion of electrons in atoms. These experiments pave the way for extremely fast electronics and new types of radiation sources for medical diagnostics and therapy.


Hans-Kopfermann-Str. 1
85748 Garching
Phone: +49 89 32905-0
Fax: +49 89 32905-200

PhD opportunities

This institute has several International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS):

IMPRS on Advanced Photon Science
IMPRS for Quantum Science and Technology

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

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A deeper insight into the sampling of a light field helps increasing the sensitivity of the measurement

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The smaller the research object, the more complex the apparatus.

With the expectation that they will be able to solve problems that stump even today’s best computers, both governments and private financiers are investing heavily in the development of quantum computers. The team led by Ignacio Cirac, a Director at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, is researching what computers will actually be able to do in the years to come. As the research reveals, not all hopes are likely to be fulfilled so soon.

Advances in technology are likely to make cyber-attacks ever more damaging. But at least the transmission of data could become more secure - through quantum communication. This has spurred researchers from around the world to work on its physical principles and technical components. Gerhard Rempe's team at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching have set their vision even higher: to network quantum computers.

Modern quantum physics holds quite a few promises in store: quantum computers and simulators will be able to trawl through huge quantities of data at lightning speed, accelerate the development of new drugs or facilitate the search for materials for, say, energy engineering. The research being carried out by Ignacio Cirac, Director at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, is helping to fulfill these promises.

Gravitational waves are some of the most spectacular predictions of the 1915 general theory of relativity. However, it wasn’t until half a century later that physicist Joseph Weber attempted to track them down. In the early 1970s, Max Planck scientists also began working in this research field, and developed second-generation detectors. The groundwork laid by these pioneers meant the waves in space-time ceased to be just figments of the imagination: in September 2015 they were finally detected.

Electrons hold the world together. When chemical reactions yield new substances, they play a leading role. And in electronics, too, they are the protagonists. Together with his colleagues, Ferenc Krausz, Director of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, photographs the rapid movements of electrons with attosecond flashes, creating the basis for new technological developments.

Physicists can solve many puzzles by taking more accurate and careful measurements. Randolf Pohl and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, however, actually created a new problem with their precise measurements of the proton radius, because the value they measured differs significantly from the value previously considered to be valid. The difference could point to gaps in physicists’ picture of matter.

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Quantencomputer und klassischer Computer Hand in Hand

2021 Cirac, Juan Ignacio

Particle Physics Plasma Physics Quantum Physics

Quantum computers raise hope for the discovery of new materials or the simulation of complex natural processes. First prototypes exist, but the technology is still in its infancy. Quantum algorithms that can calculate dynamic many-body systems more efficiently than classical algorithms have been known for some time – none, however, for static systems. Now our group has developed two algorithms that can do exactly that better than any supercomputer. In the application of their two algorithms, classical computers and quantum computers work hand in hand.


Images of magnetic polarons in a quantum simulator

2020 Koepsell, Joannis; Vijayan, Jayadev; Sompet, Pimonpan; Grusdt, Fabian; Hilker, Timon A.; Demler, Eugene; Salomon, Guilllaume; Bloch, Immanuel; Gross, Christian

Particle Physics Plasma Physics Quantum Physics

More than 30 years after the discovery of high-temperature superconductors, their basic mechanisms are still not fully understood. However, more knowledge would be important to find materials with superconductivity at room temperature that can transport electricity without loss. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics are trying to unravel this mystery using a special quantum simulator. Recently, they made a breakthrough: the very first high-resolution photos of single magnetic polarons. They are suspected to be significantly involved in the formation of superconductivity.


Molecular reactions on nano particles

2019 Kling, Matthias; Bergues, Boris; Rupp, Philipp

Particle Physics Quantum Physics

Light-matter interactions determine fundamental processes in our everyday lives: from the scattering of light by molecules and particles in the atmosphere, which colour the sky, to vital biological processes such as photosynthesis. They are all based on ultrafast charge movements in the femtosecond or attosecond range, i.e. millionths or billionths of a billionth of a second. In order to study these processes, we create light pulses that are just as short. Now we have used them to trigger reactions on nanoparticles and to study them.  


Quantum electrodynamics and the size of the proton

2018 Udem, Thomas

Particle Physics Plasma Physics Quantum Physics

The radius of the proton can best be determined by comparing highly precise measurements on atomic hydrogen with predictions based on the theory of quantum electrodynamics. However, the results obtained with this approach were in conflict with previously published values, which suggested that novel physical effects might be in play. Further work at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics has now demonstrated that the discrepancies can be attributed to errors in the earlier measurements.


Quantum gates for photons

2017 Dürr, Stephan

Particle Physics Plasma Physics Quantum Physics

Quantum cryptography makes secure communication possible today, but with existing technology is limited to less than 100 km. A quantum repeater could overcome this limitation in principle but has not been built yet. We follow two different experimental approaches toward a photon-photon quantum gate, which is an essential component needed for a quantum repeater.

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