The Collaborative Research Center (CRC/SFB) „NOA – Nonlinear Optics down to Atomic Scales“ at Friedrich Schiller University Jena, in which the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) researches and works together with other partners on light-matter interactions, will be funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) with approximately eleven million Euros for another four years from July 1, 2023.
When light meets matter, the interactions depend primarily on the material and the intensity of the light source – a flashlight only illuminates a stone, while a high-power laser can burn a hole in it. Such interactions are well known and well described. If light encouters nanostructures or atomically thin layers, or when the light intensity is extremely high, a precise scientific description of the interaction is still possible for many systems. The CRC 1375 NOA at the University of Jena has been working on the development of such theories and their practical implementation since 2019. With success, as the continued funding of the large-scale research project by the DFG shows. The research funding organization has now approved around eleven million Euros to support research into light-matter interactions in Jena and its partners for a further four years from July 1, 2023.
Phenomena of nonlinear optics occur when laser light hits matter with extremely high intensity. In addition to the original laser beam, the interaction with the material’s charge carriers also produces radiation of shorter wavelengths – an effect that increases with increasing intensity and is therefore referred to as nonlinear.
Interdisciplinary tracking of interactions down to the atomic scale
In the CRC, fundamental nonlinear optical processes of light-matter interaction are investigated down to the atomic level. For this purpose, theoretical methods, procedures and numerical schemes were successfully developed and applied in the first funding phase, and artificial matter shaped with atomic precision, such as atomically thin and quasi-two-dimensional layers, also known as 2D materials, one-dimensional nanowires and particles or quantum dots, and their nonlinear interaction with light were experimentally investigated.
Tailoring the nonlinear optical response
After these systems have been analyzed and described individually, NOA will investigate systems with mixed dimensionality in the second funding phase: These include chemically or electronically modified nanowires or foils, single photon emitters in 2D materials, or atomically thin layered materials. The aim is to tailor the respective nonlinear optical response. New to the CRC is research in the field of quantum optics. In addition, communicating the new findings to the general public will be another objective in the coming funding phase. An attractive didactic concept is to be developed both for the general public and for schools. To this end, the research team will collaborate with the German Optical Museum, among others.
„With this combined approach, NOA will be able to establish new paradigms for nonlinear optics down to atomic scales, not only in terms of fundamentals but also in terms of applications,“ says the future NOA spokesperson Prof. Dr. Stefanie Gräfe.
If this succeeds, attractive applications will emerge, ranging from tiny nanolasers and extremely compact X-ray sources to the optical detection of a few atoms. In the end, it might even be possible to observe chemical reactions between individual molecules in real time – a dimension that linear optical systems cannot penetrate.
„The extension of the funding of the CRC NOA is a nice evidence of its excellent scientific achievements. We are pleased to be part of this success story and look forward to the next four years ahead as well as the intensive interdisciplinary collaboration with researchers from disciplines such as physics, chemistry and the engineering sciences. By investigating and better understanding phenomena of the interactions between light and matter, we are jointly laying the foundations for the development of new optical technologies that could positively change the lives of people all over the world,“ says Prof. Dr. Jürgen Popp, scientific director at Leibniz IPHT.
Within the framework of the CRC, the Friedrich Schiller University Jena cooperates with the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering and Leibniz IPHT in Jena, but also with the Humboldt University Berlin and the Technical University of Munich.
Further information on the CRC NOA:
In the picture:
 Experiments on nonlinear optical effects.
©Jens Meyer/Uni Jena