As hot as the Sun’s interior
Physicists create plasma for the first time using nanowires and long-wavelength ultrashort pulse laser.
When Theodore Maiman unveiled the first functional laser on July 7, 1960 in New York, he had very little idea of the range of applications that such high-intensity beams of tightly collimated light would one day find. Today it is impossible to imagine today’s world without the laser. Lasers are now ubiquitous in consumer electronics, telecommunications, measuring devices, in industry, medicine and research. They have also become an indispensable tool in space research. And there is no sign that the laser will run out of useful things to do. Indeed, specialists believe that the 21st century is set to be the century of the photon, the smallest unit of light.
on the Sun’s Surface
Borne along by
an ionic wind
Glowing Flowers at our glow stick competition
At our Open House day the Photonworld-Team had a lot of fun with glow sticks.The creative works of our visitors were photographed in a black box. Here you find a gallery of the best pics! The winner is the girl with flowers you see in the first picture of the slideshow. Congrats!
Calculation training for photons
Physicists working with Prof. Gerhard Rempe at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have used a trick to get photons to interact with one another: they built a quantum logic gate – the foundation of a quantum computer.
The laboratory that brought us closer to the stars
A visit to the glassworks at Benediktbeuern Monastery transports visitors back in time to the optics pioneers of the 19th century, to where Joseph von Fraunhofer made the world's best telescopes and microscopes of the day.
As hot as the Sun’s interior
Physicists create plasma for the first time using nanowires and long-wavelength ultrashort pulse laser.
Bacteria as a Source of Electricity
A German-Israeli research team has developed a light-driven system for the generation of electricity in which the electrodes are coated with cyanobacteria. The truly novel feature of the new system is that no supplementary molecules are required for electron transport. The bacterial cells supply all the constituents required to complete the circuit.
Ultrafast molecular gymnastics
We owe our ability to see to the molecule retinal. In the human retina, a light-activated alteration in the structure of retinal triggers the neuronal reaction that is the basis of the visual sense. Bacteria also make use of the reaction to transport protons or ions across the cell membrane, which allows light energy to be stored and later consumed as a biological fuel. In all these cases, the retinal molecule is bound to a specific protein that plays a central role in modulating its response to light, which occurs within 500 femtoseconds. This is one of the fastest reactions in biology (1 fs is equivalent to a millionth of a billionth of a second). Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) have now taken snapshots of what happens in this minuscule interval. “No one has previously measured the light-activated response of a retinal-binding protein with such precision,” says Jörg Standfuss, Leader of the Time-Resolved Crystallography Group in the Division of Biology and Chemistry at the PSI.
The First Stars
Astronomers have used the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) located in Argentina and the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the European Southern Observatory in Chile to observe the galaxy MACS1149-JD1. They detected weak infrared emission characteristic of ionized oxygen. On its way to Earth, the wavelength of the radiation was stretched by a factor of more than 10, due to the ongoing expansion of the Universe. The magnitude of this redshift reveals that the signal left its source galaxy some 13.3 billion years ago, only 500 million years after the Big Bang. This makes MACS1149-JD1 the most distant stellar source of oxygen yet discovered. Moreover, the evidence for oxygen in its emission spectrum implies that the earliest stars in this galaxy must be significantly older still.
Here comes the sun
HOW THE LASER CAN SOLVE OUR ENERGY PROBLEMS — AND WHY WE CAN LOOK FORWARD TO WARP DRIVES OFFERING FASTER-THAN-LIGHT TRAVEL.
He was the most famous scientist of our time. Stephen Hawking‘s fame can only be compared to that of the superstars of popular music and sports. On March 14th, the world’s best known cosmologist died in Cambridge at the age of 76.
How superman’s super-senses allowed engineers’ imaginations to take flight — and why Lois Lane can handle more than any laser processing head.
Plants make strategic decisions
A new study carried out by botanists at Tübingen University shows that plants are able to evaluate the density and height of neighboring vegetation and modify their own growth habits accordingly.
Fiery Craters and Northern Lights
The Munich-based geologist, photographer and tour operator, Florian Becker, has fallen in love with the volcanically active regions/landscapes of the world. For over 20 years his travels have been leading him to active volcanoes like Stromboli, Vulcano and Mount Etna as well as to Iceland. To this day Florian Becker is as fascinated by the orangey red glow of the Stromboli lava flows on pitch black nights and by the northern lights in the deep Icelandic winters as he was when he was a young student with a developing passion for travel. On his website photonworld.de he explains what exactly it is about these special places that fascinate him and how he is able to capture the different qualities of light with his camera.
Keeping Time with Light
An international team of researchers based at the universities of Vienna, Duisburg-Essen and Tel Aviv have succeeded in using polarized laser light to rotate a nanorod in a controlled fashion, providing a stable micromechanical oscillator for an electronic timekeeper. With the aid of laser beams, the group led by Stefan Kuhn, James Millen and Markus Arndt of the University of Vienna trapped a silicon nanorad, less than one-thousandth of a millimeter long, in a vacuum. The two counter-propagating light beams effectively keep the rod in suspension, and a third laser is used to rotate the rod by means of pulses of polarized light. Since the rotation is locked to the pulse frequency, the rotation period is sufficiently stable to act as a high-precision clock. Over a period of 4 days, this clock loses no more than a millionth of a second.
Hidden in a Web of Light
Researchers at the Technical University of Vienna have developed the theoretical basis for a cloaking technology which suggests that objects could be concealed from sight at the flick of a switch.
Laser-based Monitoring of Space Debris
In addition to interplanetary dust, space debris presents a significant threat to working satellites. A team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering has developed a new tool to track this hazardous waste – a fibre laser that determines the positions and trajectories of uncontrolled flying objects.
UV-driven drill penetrates cancer cells
Researchers at Rice University in Houston have synthesized molecular motors that can kill cancer cells by drilling holes in them when activated by UV light.
Packing more data into photons
Physicists at the University of Ottawa have managed to encode more than single bits of information in light quanta, and have successfully transmitted the encrypted data over a distance of 300 meters in a turbulent urban setting.
Artworks from the Quantum World
The graphical representation of experimental data in the field of attosecond physics has produced a new genre of geometric art, characterized by aesthetically pleasing forms depicted in all the colours of the rainbow. Outlined against an ink-black background, brightly tinted concentric circles and stellar shapes reveal the fascination of the enigmatic quantum world.
A kick-start for life on Earth?
In simulations of the conditions that prevailed on the Earth 4.5 billion years ago, teams based at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague and the Sorbonne in Paris observed the formation of the canonical ribonucleobases specifically under the influence of lightning – and shock waves that mimic the effects of asteroid impacts.
Algae and the Future of Aviation
In the Technical University of Munich’s new TUM-AlgaeTec Center, researchers are exploring the use of microalgae for production of biofuels by exposing the cells to a variety of light levels and temperatures.
A Light-Based Sensor of Seismic Activity
Built by Munich geophysicists, the world’s first 3-D ring laser for the detection of rotational ground movements is now in operation.
Imaging of the photonic analogue of a sonic boom
A team at Washington University in St. Louis has imaged – for the first time in real time -- the effect of a laser pulse propagating in a scattering medium.
Sand grains shed light on the peopling of Tibet
Light teased from calcite minerals helps to date humanity’s conquest of the Tibetan Plateau
Secret weapon red light
Some fish send out red light deep in the water. That gives them some advantages in their hard fight for survival and in reproduction.
“This is the fastest electric current ever measured”
On the path to faster electronics, the electron flow within a circuit plays a decisive role. Conventional methods such as batteries can be used to generate electron oscillation up to the gigahertz range. Using ultrafast laser pulses, researchers have now managed to move electrons in solid matter at a rate as fast as eight million billion oscillations per second – about one million times faster than previously possible. To measure this extremely fast current flow, the scientists relied on techniques from attosecond physics, since electronic detectors fail to read at such fast rates. They reported on their approach in the journal “Nature”. Franziska Konitzer of Welt der Physik spoke to Eleftherios Goulielmakis from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, who was involved in the research.
Athanassios Kaliudis, editor-in-chief of the Trumpf company magazine, outlines in his guest commentary a thrilling scenario on how the laser could help us to become nearly immortal.
Quantum physics games
LMU physicists working with Harald Weinfurter will participate in the international Big Bell Test, which tests the fundamentals of quantum physics. Everyone is invited to make a random entry in a browser-based game on November 30th and thus contribute to scientific experiments.
A zeptosecond stopwatch for the microcosm
When light strikes electrons in atoms, their state can change unimaginably quickly. The laser physicists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (MPQ) have measured such a phenomenon – namely that of photoionization, in which an electron exits a helium atom after excitation by light – for the first time with zeptosecond precision. A zeptosecond is a trillionth of a billionth of a of a second (10-21 seconds). This is the greatest accuracy of time determination of an event in the microcosm ever achieved, as well as the first absolute determination of the timescale of photoionization.
James Bond experiences laser material processing
Athanassios Kaliudis, editor-in-chief of the Trumpf company magazine „Laser Community“, writes in our guest commentary about a famous film scene from the 1960s. Back then one was still looking for possible applications for the laser. Hollywood already had a suggestion.
A mysterious face
A second picture is hiding under a portrait painting by Edgar Degas from 1778. A team in Melbourne made it visible by using X-rays at the Australian Synchrotron.
The man who felt the light
At the beginning of the 19th century one was able to understand better what light was about from a physical point of view. This was as well reflected in the art of painting and later on in the photography. One who was able to paint light like no other, was William Turner.
Now in 3D: “Spooky Action at a Distance”
Quantum physicists have entangled three photons in three dimensions. This breakthrough opens up new perspectives for quantum cryptography and data storage in the future.
Round the world on solar power
Defying the fate of Ikaros, two intrepid pilots recently completed a round-the-world flight powered by the rays of the Sun. Their specially designed aircraft, Solar Impulse2, completed the trip without consuming a drop of fossil fuel.
A human eye detects a single photon
Just how dark does it have to be before our eyes stop working? Research by a team from Rockefeller University and the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology in Austria has shown that humans can detect the presence of a single photon, the smallest measurable unit of light. Previous studies had established that human subjects acclimated to the dark were capable only of reporting flashes of five to seven photons.
Power from the Tower
A solar thermal power plant is under construction in Israel’s Negev Desert, which will use thousands of mirrors to focus concentrated sunlight onto the highest solar energy tower in the world. German researchers are also working to perfect the technology.
Elegant hybrid being
Bioengineers from Harvard University constructed a ray-like robot made from a gold skeleton and living cells. They control it with light.
Save for five
A Team of the University of Southampton developed a system that is capable of storing data up to five billion years.
Illusions in the Round
In the future gamers will be able to engage with hologram hordes not just on flatscreens, but in 3D – as soon as light-based computers become available. These machines will process data 100,000 times faster than today’s models. Physicists are actively seeking ways to overcome the technical obstacles that currently stand in the way of optoelectronic computing. A possible solution to the problem of heat dissipation has now been demonstrated.
Sailing to the stars
A group of researchers including physicist Stephen Hawking plans to launch laser-powered mini-satellites to our nearest stellar neighbour within the next 15 years.
Lasers and the future of drug synthesis
The year is 2060, and thanks to technical advances in production procedures, drugs will be highly specific – and exceptionally effective in extremely small doses. For it is now possible to manipulate the atoms in organic molecules at will – by means of laser light. Physicists at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics and at LMU Munich are now laying the foundations for the realization of such a revolutionary approach to chemical synthesis.
A story of light
A small group of scientists from the Laboratory of Attosecond Physics created a chain reaction device to tell the story of light.
Fueled by the sun
The sun is the most important source of energy for life on earth. This energy, in the form of sunlight, is harnessed and fully exploited by nature with its own systems: think of plants growing, flowering and producing fruit, the changing seasons, and our own circadian rhythms. The resourceful human race has used sunlight since the beginning of our history, too: for example, for warmth, for preserving and drying food, and for removing salt from seawater to create freshwater. But human innovation has recently uncovered ways in which we can maximize the sun’s massive energy potential even more.
The speed of light — and its limits
Light seems to be infinitely fast. A lamp alights in the moment one flips the switch, and the exchange of information around the world using glass fibers happens without noticeable delay. But are there situations in which we recognize a limitation of the speed of light? On which scales can we prove its finiteness?