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 several International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS):

IMPRS Physics of Light
IMPRS Physics and Medicine

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

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


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


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


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


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

Show more

Originally from Iran, physicist Hanieh Fattahi was attracted to Germany because it offered many more research opportunities and greater freedoms in everyday life. Of course, once she arrived, she had to come to terms with the cultural differences. Nevertheless, she has since established her own research group at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Erlangen, Germany, where extremely short laser pulses are used to study biological microscopy. And with her talent for motivating people, Hanieh Fattahi is also active in climate protection.

To date, medical science has shown little interest in how easily cells deform. As Jochen Guck, Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Erlangen, and his team have discovered, this attitude is unjustified. As it turns out, the mechanical properties of cells can be used to diagnose cancer and possibly also inflammation. The scientists are currently testing the method together with University Hospital Erlangen - and have already gathered useful insights into COVID-19.

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.

No job offers available

Microchips for light

2023 Del‘Haye, Pascal

Complex Systems Material Sciences Quantum Physics Solid State Research

The ability to accommodate billions of transistors on computer chips has dramatically changed our society. Photonics also plays a major role in increasingly powerful data processing systems. While the miniaturization of electronic components has been progressing steadily for more than 40 years, the field of integrated photonics is relatively new. At the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, we have developed processes for producing optical circuits on microchips which can be used for optical data transmission and optical signal processing.


Multifocal confocal microscopy 

2022 Singh, Kanwarpal

Cell Biology Material Sciences Medicine Quantum Physics

We have developed a multifocal chromatic confocal system that offers high lateral resolution and a large imaging range. The system is based on a single lens made of zinc selenide (ZnSe) material. By leveraging the chromatic dispersion of ZnSe, images can be captured in multiple planes. The system enables tomographic imaging of biological tissues in 3D with cellular resolution. It has been demonstrated to successfully image iron oxide nanoparticle phantoms as well as corneal samples. The developed technology could find applications in biomedical and industrial imaging, such as the visualization of calcifications, the digestive tract, epithelial tissue, and field-effect transistors, among others.


Light and magnetic materials pave the way towards new quantum technologies

2021 Jasmin Graf und Silvia Viola Kusminskiy 

Cell Biology Material Sciences Medicine Microbiology Quantum Physics Solid State Research

Modern quantum technologies are based on the concept of hybrid quantum systems, which couple different physical systems each optimized for a specific task, in order to achieve the most efficient operation of the coupled system. One important example of such a hybrid system is the coupling of light and magnetic materials, which can be used for both saving and transferring information. 


Hollow-core crystal fibres generate ultra-short laser pulses

2020 Novoa, David; Tani, Francesco; Russell, Philip

Material Sciences Quantum Physics

Hollow core photonic crystal fibres have long been a topic of intensive investigation at MPL. These glass structures, with a complex lattice of hollow channels running along their length, permit light to be guided with high precision in a central hollow core. A series of experiments have shown that, when filled with gas, the fibres can be used in many interesting and novel ways, for example, forming the basis of table-top sources of ultrashort femtosecond pulses running at very high repetition rates, with a spectral brightness two to five orders of magnitude greater than most synchrotrons.


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.

Go to Editor View