General information

What are the Optical Sciences?

Optical Sciences study the propagation and detection of light and its interaction with matter.

First, Optical Sciences represent a dynamic area of research which, time and again, provides astonishing discoveries and fascinating fundamental insights, many of them of particularly aesthetic value; these include the discovery of energy quanta and Max Planck's black-body radiation formula, Albert Einstein's explanation of the photoelectric effect, the invention of the laser (Nobel prize 1964 for Charles H. Townes, Nikolai Basov, and Alexander Prochorov), and fundamental tests of quantum mechanics (Nobel prize 2012 for Serge Haroche and David Wineland). At the same time, Optical Sciences deliver the scientific and technological prerequisites for numerous developments in the natural and engineering sciences as exemplified by Frits Zernike's phase-contrast microscopy, the principle of holography (Nobel prize 1971 for Dennis Gabor), the technique of optical frequency combs (Nobel prize 2005 for John L. Hall and Theodor Hänsch), fiber optical systems (Nobel prize 2009 for Charles K. Kao), super-resolution fluorescence microscopy (Nobel prize 2014 for Eric Betzig, Stefan Hell, and William Moerner), and optical trapping techniques (Nobel 2017 prize for Arthur Ashkin). Conversely, Optical Sciences greatly benefit from the corresponding progress in the areas of optical materials, devices, and instruments such as the development of liquid crystals, CCD sensors, and blue LEDs.

The laser represents a particularly attractive example of the above-described fruitful interplay. Based on the development of the first operational Ruby-Laser in 1960 by T.H. Maiman, novel classes of light sources with hitherto unimaginable properties have been developed in record time - and they form the basis for unique techniques and applications such as laser spectroscopy, laser microscopy, laser-based material processing, and manipulation of matter. The latter includes methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light (Nobel prize 1997 for Steven Chu, Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, and William D. Phillips) and the achievement of Bose-Einstein-Condensates in dilute gases (Nobel prize 2001 for Eric A. Cornell, Carl E. Wieman, and Wolfgang Ketterle). Without lasers, broad-band data transmission, efficient optical sensors as well as modern optoelectronics are simply unthinkable. These developments have led to the coinage of the word photonics (ɸωτός, greek for light beam), i.e., the research field of harnessing light. Nevertheless, the laser itself is still the subject of intense research efforts with the goal of making accessible ever shorter pulses, higher intensities, and novel wavelength regimes (for instance, see the Nobel prize 2018 for Gerard Mourou and Donna Strickland).

Optical Sciences in Berlin-Adlershof

Berlin-Adlershof is one of the few centers of Optical Sciences in Germany. It features a highly diversified and internationally very visible research portfolio (see the recent OSA newsroom item on the Science City Adlershof).

The optics research groups at the Institute of Physics of the HU Berlin are engaged in fundamental research of light-matter interaction on the nano-scale (Prof. Benson), quantum optics and metrology (Prof. Peters), theoretical atomic, molecular, and optical physics (Prof. Saenz), and the theory of light propagation and light-matter interaction in complex optical and quantum photonic systems (Prof. Busch).

Laser systems for ultra-short and -intense pulses, the characterization and shaping of such pulses, the development of corresponding measurement instrumentation for ultrafast processes and their theoretical description is the focus of research at the Max Born Institute (MBI; Profs. Elsässer, Ivanov, and Steinmeyer of MBI are affiliated with the HU Berlin and Prof. Busch of HU Berlin is affiliated with MBI).

The Helmholtz Center Berlin (HZB) has at its disposal a powerful source of extreme-UV and X-ray light (BESSY II) that facilitates high-resolution microscopy, novel coherent imaging methods, and in conjunction with the so-called femtosecond laser slicing, allows for ultrafast experiments (Prof. Schneider of HZB is affiliated with HU Berlin). In addition, the HZB conducts extensive research in photovoltaics.

The Ferdinand Braun Institute (FBH) develops key technologies in the areas of microwave techniques and optoelectronics with a special emphasis on novel light sources (Prof. Peters of HU Berlin is affiliated with FBH).

The German Aerospace Center's Institute for Optical Sensor Systems (DLR OS) develops novel satellite- and rover-based optical sensors and cameras for applications in earth observation and planetary research (Prof. Hübers of DLR OS is affiliated with HU Berlin).

Within its main application area "nano- and optoelectronics" the Weierstrass Institute (WIAS) works on problems of applied mathematics with direct reference to Optical Sciences (PD Dr. Bandelow of WIAS is affiliated with HU Berlin).

Furthermore, the HU Berlin is the coordinating institution of the Collaborative Research Center 951 "Hybrid Inorganic/Organic Systems for Opto-Electronics" (CRC 951 HIOS). It aims at elucidating the basic chemical, electronic, and photonic interactions in innovative hybrid systems comprised of inorganic semiconductors, metallic nanostructures and conjugated organic materials for advanced applications.

In addition, the Science- and Technology-Park Berlin-Adlershof features "Photonics/Optics" as one of its five Technology Centers, which presently hosts some 55 small and medium-sized enterprises.

The above-described unique combination of basic and applied optics-related research in Berlin-Adlershof represents the central motivation and provides the basis for the research-oriented Master program in Optical Sciences at HU Berlin. Further, a MSc degree in Optical Sciences represents a prerequisite for pursuing a PhD, for instance, within the Berlin School of Optical Sciences & Quantum Technology (BOS.QT).

Living in Berlin

Berlin is one of the most attractive cities in Europe. It features a particularly diverse and dynamic cultural scene, take a look here. In addition, the Studentenwerk Berlin assists student life in many different ways such as housing, financing, and more.