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.

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 more
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 more
An interface between physics and medicine
Cooperation agreement for a new interdisciplinary centre in Erlangen was signed on 25 July more
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 more
Helically twisted photonic crystal fibres
Yearbook 2017 article from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light more
Research highlights from our yearbook
The yearbook of the Max Planck Society illustrates the research carried out at our institutes. We selected a few reports from our 2017 yearbook to illustrate the variety and diversity of topics and projects. more
Optical fibre with Einstein effect
Twisted photonic crystal fibres guide light by a mechanism similar to the bending of light rays by large celestial masses more
Light microscopy provides a deep look into protein structure
An innovative fluorescence microscopy method makes it possible to image protein structures with a resolution of less than half an Angstrom more
A tiny switch for a few particles of light
A single molecule allows a beam of light with a few photons to be controlled - a step towards the photonic computer more
Classical entanglement: Speeding particles in the sights of a laser
A radially polarized laser beam acts as a motion sensor for fast particles more
<p>Photonic crystal fibre: a multi-purpose sensor</p>
A flying microbead in a hollow glass fibre measures temperature, vibrations and electric fields with high spatial resolution. more
Interaction of tailored light with a single atom and individual nanostructures
By adapting a mode of the light field to a system under study, the interaction of light with matter can be optimized more
Light: World record in colour
A photonic crystal fibre generates light from the ultraviolet to the mid-infrared region of the spectrum more
Light in the Möbius strip

Light in the Möbius strip

February 10, 2015
A Möbius strip created from laser light opens up new possibilities for material processing and for micro- and nanotechnology more
A molecule in an optical whispering gallery
With the help of a microsphere and a nanowire, single unlabelled biomolecules can be detected through light more

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
Postdoc and PhD position - Machine Learning for Physicists
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Erlangen May 09, 2018
Junior research group leader position
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Erlangen May 07, 2018
Postdoc Positions - Optomechanics
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Erlangen June 09, 2017

Light and movement in the nanoworld

2018 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. more

Helically twisted photonic crystal fibres

2017 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. more

Nano Quantum Optics

2016 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. more

Interaction of tailored light with atoms and nano-structures

2015 Sondermann, Markus; Banzer, Peter; Leuchs, Gerd
Material Sciences Quantum Physics Solid State Research

By adapting a mode of the light field to a system under study, the interaction of light with matter can be optimized. In this context, the spatial distribution of the electric field of such a tailored mode plays an important role. At the MPI for the Science of Light, this approach is utilized to couple light to individual atoms or nano-particles. It was shown, for example, that light can be coupled to an ion trapped in a parabolic mirror with high efficiency. In other studies, the scattering behavior of individual nano-particles was controlled using polarization tailored light.


Taking biodetection to the limit

2014 Vollmer, Frank
Material Sciences Particle Physics Plasma Physics Quantum Physics Solid State Research

Our research is focused on the physics of biosensing, the physical principles for detecting molecules and their interactions. Of particular interest is the study of photonic microsystems with the goal of single molecule analysis. Taking detection to this limit is only possible if the interaction of light with biomolecules is sufficiently enhanced. Our group has now achieved such extreme enhancements with optical microcavities.


New concepts for solar energy harvesting

2014 Bashouti, Muhammad; Brönstrup, Gerald; Christiansen Silke H.; Egbaria, Eisaam; Feichtner, Thorsten; Göbelt, Manuela; Heilmann, Martin; Höflich, Katja; Hoffmann, Björn; Jäckle, Sara; Keding, Ralf; Kulmas, Marina; Latzel, Michael; Pietsch, Matthias; Sarau, George; Schmitt, Sebastian; Tessarek, Christian
Material Sciences Solid State Research

The MPL develops photoactive materials with partly new methods. Nanostructured silicon and III-nitrides show great potential for thin-film photovoltaics. For the first time, it was possible to produce large-area regular silicon nanowires from 6 µm thin polycrystalline films on glass. Progress has been made in functionalization and contacting with organic molecules, transparent conductive oxides and graphen. Hybrid polymer(PEDOT:PSS)-silicon-interfaces show remarkable characteristics and allow solar cells with open circuit voltage exceeding 600 meV.


Single organic molecules as building blocks for photonics

2013 Götzinger, Stephan; Sandoghdar, Vahid
Material Sciences Quantum Physics Solid State Research
Single organic molecules can not only generate single photons, but also be used as basic building blocks to manipulate light in photonic circuits. A molecule can, for example, attenuate a laser beam, act as a phase shifter or be used as an optical transistor. The principle behind these remarkable functionalities is the strong interaction of focused light with quantum emitters such as atoms, quantum dots, color centers, or molecules, whereby the latter offer exceptional opportunities. Experiments have reached a level where single molecules can communicate with each other using single photons. more

Ultrashort light propagation in hollow-core photonic crystal fibers: recent theoretical advances

2013 Biancalana, F.; Saleh, F. M.; Hölzer, P.; Chang, W.; Travers, J. C.; Joly, N. Y.; Nazarkin, A.; Russell, P. St.J.
Complex Systems Plasma Physics Quantum Physics
Solid-core photonic crystal fibers have opened new possibilities in nonlinear fiber optics, due to the flexibility in engineering their dispersion properties by changing the cladding structure. However, in recent years, researchers are starting to explore the revolutionary properties of hollow-core photonic crystal fibers, which can be filled with a variety of gases to explore their molecular or atomic properties. Here we report on some recent theoretical advances in the description of intense and ultrashort light propagation in such media, leading to some beautiful and surprising physics. more

Semiconductor nanowires: versatile building blocks in various novel optical applications

2012 Bashouti, Muhammad; Brönstrup, Gerald; Christiansen Silke H.; Hoffmann, Björn; Kiometzis, Michael; Pietsch, Matthias; Sarau, George; Schmitt, Sebastian; Sivakov, Vladimir; Tessarek, Christian; Voigt, Felix
Material Sciences Solid State Research
The investigation of optical properties of semiconductor nanowires and their controlled modification has a wide range of potential applications in areas from sensing to photovoltaics. At the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light a wide variety of methods is used to advance this type of research. A noteworthy achievement is a working Silicon-nanowire based solar cell with efficiencies >9%. This result underlines the promising potential of semiconductor nanowires in efficient thin film photovoltaics. more

New territories for fibre optics: short wavelengths and high intensities

2012 Hölzer, Philipp; Nold, Johannes; Travers, John C.; Russell, Philip St. J.
Material Sciences Plasma Physics Quantum Physics
Microstructured photonic crystal fibre has introduced the unique new opportunity to guide light over long distances in a hollow core. This allows one to carry out detailed studies of nonlinear light-gas interactions under extreme conditions. Two recent results are reported: the generation of bright tunable deep-ultraviolet light and pulse propagation in photo-ionised noble gases. more

The quantum uncertainty of light and optical technologies

2011 Leuchs, Gerd; Marquardt, Christoph
Quantum Physics
The quantum uncertainty of the states of a light field is an essential aspect of many optical methods. While the uncertainty does lead to performance limitations, it also offers new opportunities. Examples range from optical amplification to quantum key distribution. more

Photonic Crystal Fibres

2010 Euser, Tijmen; Joly, Nicolas; Nazarkin, Alexander; Russell, Philip; Scharrer, Michael; Schmidt, Markus
Abstract Microstructured photonic crystal fibres (PCF) provide new ways to guide light, permitting for example tight confinement of laser light in a hollow core. We report recent developments in three research areas: laser guidance of particles in liquid-filled hollow core PCF, laser frequency conversion in hydrogen gas, and in-fibre arrays of metal and glass nanowires. more
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