Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light

White light sources being several orders of magnitudes brighter than light bulbs, the manipulation of single photons or the smallest focal point in the world – these are just a few skills mastered or developed by the scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light. Their main goal is to control light in all dimensions: in time and space, polarisation – i.e. simply speaking the direction of oscillation – and quantum properties. The knowledge they develop could simplify telecommunication or enable more compact data storage. For this purpose the researchers use novel optical structures like optical glass fibres with a regular lattice of tiny hollow channels along its length. Glass fibres guide light with extremely low losses and can be several kilometres long.


Staudtstraße 2
91058 Erlangen
Phone: +49 9131 7133-0
Fax: +49 9131 7133-990

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS Physics of Light

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

Artificial intelligence controls quantum computers

Neural networks enable learning of error correction strategies for computers based on quantum physics

Shining a spotlight on the machinery of life

Using a plasmonic nanosensor, it is possible to observe enzymes and how they move without a marker

A fundament for the Centre for Physics and Medicine

The Max Planck Society, Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg and Erlangen University Hospital have signed a cooperation agreement

An interface between physics and medicine

Cooperation agreement for a new interdisciplinary centre in Erlangen was signed on 25 July

Quantum communication with a satellite

In the future, it will be possible to use quantum cryptography in global communication by transmitting quantum information from orbit


Techniques that provide insights into the nanoworld continue to garner Nobel Prizes. However, none of those methods has made it possible to observe exactly how enzymes and other biomolecules function. Frank Vollmer, Leader of a Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Erlangen, has now changed all that – with a plasmonic nanosensor.

Soon, the NSA and other secret services may no longer be able to secretly eavesdrop on our communications without being detected – at least if quantum cryptography becomes popular. A team headed by Christoph Marquardt and Gerd Leuchs at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Erlangen is laying the foundations for the tap-proof distribution of cryptographic keys even via satellite. For the time being, the researchers have brought quantum communication into the light of day.

Personal Portrait: Gerd Leuchs

Student Worker (m/f/d) Temperature effects in real-time deformability cytometry

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Erlangen October 02, 2020

Light can move things

2019 Michael Reitz, Christian Sommer and Claudiu Genes

Particle Physics Quantum Physics

Light particles (photons) normally have very little energy and momentum. Nevertheless, they can be successfully used to control the movement of various objects, from molecules to the vibrations of small mirrors or membranes. We are developing theoretical methods to show how light can be used to read oscillations of nuclei in molecules or to cool the motion of photonic crystal mirrors or membranes down to near their quantum ground state.


What the vacuum has to do with freak waves

2018 Maria Chekhova, Sascha Agne

Material Sciences Particle Physics Plasma Physics Quantum Physics Solid State Research

Experimental research in our labs in the past centered on development of quantum light sources that amplify quantum fluctuations to a macroscopic level. We explored the consequences of those strong quantum fluctuations and realized that phenomena we observe have a close link to others found in fields such as economics, geology, and biology, and which are known as power laws and Pareto principle. Currently, we explore the origins of those analogies — in particular the relationship to so-called rogue waves — and try to understand to what extent we can simulate those phenomena in our lab.


Light and movement in the nanoworld

2017 Marquardt, Florian

Material Sciences Particle Physics Plasma Physics Quantum Physics Solid State Research

Light can exert forces that have a significant impact on the nanoscale, enabling control of the mechanical movement of structures smaller than a human hair. This type of physics promises a variety of applications, from highly sensitive measurements to signal transduction in quantum communication. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light have now predicted how the transport of light and sound can also be controlled in this way. So-called 'topological boundary channels' promise novel signal transmission.


Helically twisted photonic crystal fibres

2016 Russell, Philip St.J.; Beravat, Ramin; Frosz, Michael H.; Wong, Gordon K. L.

Material Sciences Particle Physics Plasma Physics Quantum Physics Solid State Research

Photonic crystal fibres (PCF) are strands of glass, not much thicker than a human hair, with a lattice of hollow channels running along the fibre. If they are continuously twisted in their production, they resemble a multi-helix. Twisted PCFs show some amazing features, from circular birefringence to conservation of the angular momentum. The biggest surprise, however, is the robust light guidance itself, with no visible fibre core. The basis for this are forces which, like gravitation, are based on the curvature of space.


Nano Quantum Optics

2015 Utikal, Tobias; Eichhamer, Emanuel; Gmeiner, Benjamin; Maser, Andreas; Wang, Daqing; Türschmann, Pierre; Kelkar, Hrishikesh; Rotenberg, Nir; Götzinger, Stephan; Sandoghdar, Vahid

Material Sciences Particle Physics Quantum Physics Solid State Research

Nanoscopic solid-state quantum systems are gaining significant momentum in quantum optics. Their ability to integrate into photonic nanostructures makes them promising candidates for the realization of future quantum networks. Efficient coupling of single molecules to photonic waveguide structures was recently demonstrated as an elementary building block. It should be possible to investigate the optical coupling between individual quantum systems by employing novel microresonator architectures. In the meantime, single ions in a crystal also find their application in nano-quantum optics.

Go to Editor View