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.

Brief Reflections from a Plasma Mirror

Intensive, isolated attosecond pulses enable electrons to be produced more quickly from relativistic plasmas

In the kaleidoscope of quantum physics

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (MPQ) and the Department of Physics of Harvard University, Cambridge, USA, will collaborate in the new Max Planck Harvard Research Center for Quantum Optics

Electric current at record speed

By using ultrafast laser flashes, Max Planck scientists have generated the fastest electric current that has ever been measured inside a solid material

Quantum logic with photons

A quantum gate allows light particles to interact with each other and could thus become the key component in a quantum computer

Double-slit experiment in a hall of mirrors

A purely quantum physical variation of the classic experiment with two atoms reveals surprising interference phenomena


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.

Quantum physics effects not only bear witness to the exotic nature of the microworld; they also facilitate completely new approaches, for instance in data processing. To better understand them, the team working with Immanuel Bloch, Director at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, is using atoms in optical lattices to simulate quantum matter.

Electrons don’t have much in common with basketballs, apart from the fact that they are often portrayed as having the shape of a ball. Nevertheless, Peter Hommelhoff is as adept a player with one as he is with the other. In his experiments at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, where he heads a Max Planck research group, he has achieved a new level of control over these elementary particles.

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Quantum electrodynamics and the size of the proton

2019 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

2018 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.


Tracking superconductivity with quantum gas microscopes

2017 Groß, Christian

Particle Physics Plasma Physics Quantum Physics

Superconductors provide energy transport without loss due to vanishing electrical resistance below a certain temperature. Concerning technological applications the so-called high-temperature superconductors are particularly interesting as their critical temperature can be reached by cooling with liquid nitrogen. However, up to now the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are not fully understood. Quantum simulators as realized by scientists from the “Quantum Many-Body Systems Division” promise to bring more insight.


Entanglement and topological order in complex quantum systems

2017 Schuch, Norbert

Particle Physics Plasma Physics Quantum Physics

Complex quantum systems can order in a wide range of different ways. While order in conventional matter can be explained from local properties of the system, strongly correlated systems exhibit so-called topological order, where the quantum correlations of the system, termed entanglement, organize globally. Yet, methods from Quantum Information Theory allow model the entanglement structure of these systems locally and thus open up a plethora of applications in the study and classification of topologically ordered systems.


Ultracold molecules

2016 Rempe, Gerhard; Glöckner, Rosa

Particle Physics Plasma Physics Quantum Physics

Molecules possess fascinating characteristics like a wealth of internal states, an exceptional interaction or interesting chemical properties. At extremely low temperatures, quantum effects dominate which opens perspectives for simulation of complex quantum systems or the production of new quantum phases of matter. To experimentally achieve these temperatures, new methods for trapping and cooling molecules and for manipulating their internal states have to be developed.

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