Research & Projects

NOA is divided into three project areas A, B, C and one service project area Z.
Image: Bild von Michal Jarmoluk auf Pixabay

Scientific vision and goals

Overview Overview Image: SFB NOA

NOA's vision is to develop a fundamental understanding of nonlinear optical processes down to the atomic scale. Thus, we will explore light-matter interactions with sub-nanometer resolution, advance current simulation schemes to enable a synergetic modeling of electromagnetic fields and quantum dynamics, and synthesize new sub-wavelength scale materials with high- and tailored nonlinearity. This will not only contribute to an improved fundamental understanding of nonlinear optics, but will also lay the foundation for new applications in frequency conversion and spectroscopy.

Specifically, (short-term) goals of the first funding period are:

  • advancing theoretical and numerical approaches for a comprehensive understanding and an improved prediction of the nonlinear optical response of nanostructured matter;
  • exploring the potential of optically induced tunneling for enhancing optical nonlinearities;
  • designing and realizing artificial nonlinear optical materials with tailored nonlinearities via nanostructuring or stacking of atomically thin films;
  • advancing background-free sensing via frequency conversion and selective nonlinear enhancement of the optical signal of investigated specimen;
  • monitoring ultrafast dynamics of electrons in matter with ultimate, i.e., single-atom spatial resolution, and
  • investigating and modeling the evolution of crystal electrons in strong light fields.

Long-term goals (of subsequent funding periods) are:

  • achieving spatio-temporal control of electron and field dynamics on the sub-cycle optical scale;
  • enhancing and tailoring higher harmonic generation in solids by controlling the pump and nanostructuring the sample;
  • synergetic modeling of quantum many-body dynamics and electromagnetic field evolution in mesoscopic system;
  • developing atomically resolved design concepts for artificial materials with customized nonlinear response;
  • pushing the limits of nonlinear optical detection down to single-molecule sensitivity with ultra-high chemical resolution and specificity, and
  • developing all-optical lab-on-a-chip devices utilizing nonlinear optics.

To achieve these goals, NOA is devided into the three project areas A, B, C and the service project Z.

Our Projects

A – Modeling nonlinear optics down to atomic scales Expand entry
NOA project area A NOA project area A Image: Katrin Uhlig/ Leibniz-IPHT

The individual research projects of NOA are organized into Project Areas. In this scheme, Project Area A aims to understand and describe nonlinear optics and dynamics of light interact­ing with matter on subwavelength or even atomic scales. Existing schemes will be adapted and novel theoretical and numerical methods will be developed to model the light-driven response in atomi­cally thin or confined structures and their back action on the incident field. Very often, such treatment has to reach beyond a perturbative approach. The particular challenge inherent in all theory projects lies response in atomi­cally thin or confined structures and their back action on the incident field. on the size of the spatial scales. To be precise, atomistic features and, on an atomic scale, more extended structures must be described on the same footing. Each theory project will actively support at least two experimental projects stemming usually from both Project Areas B and C.

B – Nonlinear optics of atomically thin 2D systems Expand entry
NOA project area B NOA project area B Image: Katrin Uhlig/ Leibniz-IPHT

Research in Project Area B is focused on the investigation of nonlinear optics in atomically thin two-dimen­sional structures. Thereby, Project Area B covers the full structural diversity of two-dimensional materials ranging from novel crystalline structures, such as MoS2, to amorphous films, e.g. as provided by atomic layer deposition.

In addition, two-dimensional structures will be functionalized, e.g., by applying resonant structures, by insert­ing ultrathin gaps between metallic walls, or by stacking bi- or multilayers, and will be subjects of investigation. Project Area B projects will examine optically induced carrier and excitation dynamics through and along these very different two-dimensional structures and will identify the impact on the nonlinear optical properties of this novel material system. Central questions to be addressed deal with identifying the structural measures needed to increase or modify and tailor quadratic, possibly even higher-order nonlinearities of these (functional­ized) two-dimensional structures.

C – Plasmon-enhanced nonlinear optics in low-dimensional hybrids Expand entry
NOA project area C NOA project area C Image: Katrin Uhlig/ Leibniz-IPHT

The nonlinear optical investigations performed in Project Area C focus on effective zero- and one-dimen­sional plasmonic hybrid systems. Metallic tips and tailor-made hybrid nanostructures are used to control light at the subwavelength scale, enabling investigations down to the single-molecule limit, e.g., with nonlinear optics tools such as Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Spectroscopy (CARS).

Novel nonlinear spectroscopic techniques will be developed aiming at measuring ultrafast vibrational and electronic dynamics, e.g., by apply­ing X-ray Mie scattering to monitor excitation transport or other molecular rearrangements with atomic spatial sensitivity, or by employing high order harmonic spectroscopy to image the field-driven dynamic elec­tronic structure of hybrid nanoparticles. Advanced characterization techniques such as pump-probe photo­emission electron microscopy (PEEM) will provide access to nonlinear optical dynamics in semiconductor or plasmonic nanostructures with resolution down to the atomic scale.

Z – Management of the CRC Expand entry
NOA project area Z NOA project area Z Image: Katrin Uhlig/Leibniz-IPHT

Both NOA theoretical and experimental projects are mutually interconnected and deal with complementary aspects of nonlinear optics including the exploration of new nonlinear processes and materials.

The work will include the development of novel probes operating on scales much shorter than the optical wavelength. In order to access well-defined low-dimensional systems with atomic dimensions, state of the art nanostructur­ing technologies will be applied. In Jena, NOA can make use of a one-of-a-kind assembly of facilities, equip­ment and expertise for nanostructuring and imaging including electron beam lithography for large scale expo­sure, a helium ion microscope for defining and imaging structures down to the atomic level, and chemi­cal expertise to synthetize well-defined nanoparticles and -wires and two-dimensional structures. To ensure the efficiency and functionality of NOA processes, Project Area Z has been accordingly designed. It comprises an integrated research training group as a research training module, a management and coordination tool, and a service project dealing with nanostructure technology.