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Research Department Magnetometry

Scientific Profile

Magnetic fields of various types are omnipresent. Their measurement with high precision provides information about their sources in various areas of life and environmental sciences. Hence, magnetic field sensors can be found not only in research and industry, but also in almost all areas of our everyday life, e.g., in smartphones.

The research department Magnetometry is dedicated to the development and application of new miniaturized and highly sensitive magnetic field sensors. Our work is centered on optically pumped magnetometers (OPM) for new imaging and multimodal methods in biophotonic and geophysical applications.

Another focus is the investigation of quantum, quantum-optical, and atomic phenomena as well as innovative materials for the development of photonic magnetometers and quantum sensors. The research work covers the complete chain from basic research over innovative assembling, interconnection and system technologies to complex measuring instruments. Our work covers single sensors of highest resolution up to sensor arrays in imaging cameras, as well as special quantum circuits and hybrid systems.

Fig. 1: Exploded drawing of an OPM-based magnetic field camera for near field applications. It allows measurement of spatially resolved magnetic field distributions, e.g. emerging from small animals, with pT-sensitivity, mm-scale resolution at full-frame video rate. Each of the laser beams works as an individual OPM sensor pixel in the large, thin vapor cell.
Fig 2: OPM during field tests. (Source: V. Schultze et al., Sensors 17 (2017), 561)
Fig. 3: Instrument with Leibniz IPHT sensor technology in testing of an electromagnetic method for raw material exploration at Kiruna (northern Sweden). (Source: V. Schultze et al., Sensors 17 (2017), 561)

Research Topics

The research department focuses on operating principles, fabrication technologies, and system integration of magnetometers and quantum sensors based on advanced micro- and nanotechnologies, which are also used as a basis for fundamental investigations in the field of quantum technologies and applications in the field of scientific instrumentation.

  • development of quantum sensors based on optically pumped magnetometers (OPM), including: integrated, miniaturized OPM sensors and arrays for biophotonic imaging and geo- and environmental science, novel readout schemes, fiber-based OPMs,
  • investigation of basic quantum phenomena and transfer into applications: development and design of micro-structured solid state quantum circuits for highly sensitive detectors and quantum circuits,
  • assembling and interconnection technologies, and system technologies as key technologies of Leibniz IPHT,
  • investigation of properties and applications of new materials such as NbN,
  • tailored complex instruments for different applications and platforms including innovative data processing and 3D inversion techniques.

Addressed Application Fields

Application fields emerge in various research areas and practical scenarios, wherever highly sensitive detection of magnetic fields is essential. These range from medicine, environment and geosciences to fundamental physics and quantum technologies.

Fundamental research 

  • Light-Matter interaction
  • Quantum phenomena in solid state systems
  • Quantum meta-materials, multi-Qubit circuits
  • Physics beyond the Standard Model

Health technologies, medicine

  • Biomagnetism – (fetal) magnetocardiography and magnetoencephalography,
  • Biosusceptometry,
  • Magnetic substances and their properties - Magnetorelaxometry

Environmental and Earth Sciences

  • Exploration: magnetic methods (vector magnetometry and full tensor gradiometry); electromagnetic methods
  • geotechnical and engineering applications, e.g. UXO, site investigation
  • biomagnetism, e.g. investigation of magneto-tactic bacteria (University Munich)
  • archaeology

Scientific Instrumentation

  • Quantum circuits:
  • Microwave Single Photon Detectors, Superconducting Quantum Interference Detectors
  • Read-out, control, and interface circuits: Microwave multiplexer, superconducting digital electronics (AQFP, RSFQ),
  • Physics beyond the Standard Model, e.g. the search for axions: using OPMs within GNOME, microwave amplifiers
  • Diagnostic instruments for accelerator physics e.g. cryogenic current comparators (CCC)
  • XUV - Spectroscopy




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Field study with the "Terra-Scanner"
Dr. Sven Linzen (right) and Stefan Dunkel hope to gain a better understanding of geological structures with the aid of an active electromagnetic method for recording ground conductivity.