An arena for light artists

New Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Light is created in 2009

Laser wheel in focus: Scientists in the research group Optics, Information and Photonics filter laser light so that, figuratively speaking, it only oscillates along the spokes of a wheel. This light can be focused particularly sharp. Among other things, the researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Light will continue to work on this development. © Peter Banzer
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Flying saucers made of light, atoms that absorb individual photons, color plays with laser beams or the sharpest focus in the world - these are just a few of the tricks that scientists at the new Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Light in Erlangen already mastered or invented become.

The Senate of the Max Planck Society has decided to found this institute on January 1, 2009 as part of this year's Annual General Meeting. In the future, the researchers around the two founding directors Professor Gerd Leuchs and Professor Philip St. John Russell will control light in all dimensions and aspects: in space, time, polarization - which is simply the direction of oscillation of the light wave - and in its quantum properties.

Targeting photonic crystals and metamaterials

To this end, researchers are developing and using novel optical structures such as photonic crystals that reflect light of a certain color, or plasmonic materials in which light and charge carriers interact in new ways. But you will also explore metamaterials with unusual properties. These may have a negative refractive index, so they may be suitable for optical stealth caps.

The new institute is based on the Max Planck team "Optics, Information and Photonics" at the University of Erlangen. The scientists have been investigating fundamental phenomena of the physics of light since 2004. "These works are scientifically excellent, " said Prof. Peter Gruss, President of the Max Planck Society: "They will help develop the information processing and traffic of the future."

A network for optical research

After the end of the term of the research group, which was limited to five years and comprised three departments, the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Light will now be created around two of these departments. It will continue to work closely with the university. After a construction phase of four years, it should comprise a total of four departments. A total of 111 posts are planned for the institute, including around 44 positions for scientific staff. display

The planned institute joins a network of Max Planck institutes whose research areas will touch and complement it. The Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, for example, has agreed to collaborate on photonic glass fibers: Professor Ferenc Krausz and Philip Russell would like to generate attosecond pulses in the X-ray region.

Together with the MPI for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, physicists from Erlangen and Germany could jointly investigate optical properties of semiconductors, with which MPI for microstructure physics in Halle is working on silicon micro- and nano-structures, the interesting ones have optical properties, or develop new methods of microscopy with the MPI for biophysical chemistry.

(MPG, 01.07.2008 - DLO)