Interdisciplinary frontier research in quantum science

In recent years, a new interdisciplinary science, called Quantum Science, has developed to explore the enormous technological potential of quantum physics. Quantum techniques will have wide applications in science and technology. The progressive miniaturization of technology inevitably leads to the world of elementary particles, where the laws of quantum physics reign. To control them and to use them for example in ultrafast, smart computers, secure data transfer, new sensors or low-loss energy technology, requires a common, integrated approach of the different scientific disciplines in basic research. With the research focus "Quantum Science" the young research University Ulm has positioned itself excellently to tackle the challenges in quantum physics.

The laser is a typical instrument for the investigation of cold atoms in quantum science.
The laser is a typical instrument for the investigation of cold atoms in quantum science.


ERC Synergy Grant, EU, BMBF, DFG, Volkswagen Foundation (amongst others)


Institute of Quantum Optics
Prof Fedor Jelezko, Prof Alexander Kubanek
Institute of Complex Quantum Systems
Prof Joachim Ankerhold, Prof Tommaso Calarco
Institute of Quantum Physics
Prof Wolfgang Schleich
Institute of Quantum Matter
Prof Johannes Hecker-Denschlag
Institute of Theoretical Physics
Prof Martin Plenio, Prof Susana Huelga

Close interdisciplinary cooperation with institutes from biology, chemistry, mathematics, engineering and medicine.


 IQST (Center for Integrated Quantum Science and Technology)
University of Stuttgart
Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart
many more


Prof Fedor Jelezko | Institute of Quantum Optics

Taming quantum systems for future technologies and life science

Quantum computers, a secure quantum internet or novel sensors. Quantum mechanical properties such as superposition and entanglement are fundamental to many of tomorrow's technical applications.

In the key area of quantum information and technology, scientists investigate quantum physical phenomena in theory and by experimentation. Research projects range from the interaction of ultracold atoms in optical lattices to individual solid-state qubits at room temperature. The overall goal is to gain complete control over quantum systems. It is also about quantum physical effects in condensed matter, in nanostructures and in biological systems.

Velocity distribution of three clouds cold Rubidium atoms.
Velocity distribution of three clouds cold Rubidium atoms. The illustration on the left shows a thermal cloud. On further cooling (<1 μK) a Bose-Einstein condensate is formed, in which all atoms occupy the same quantum state. This quantum state is characterized by a particularly low velocity distribution and appears as a sharp peak (middle). At very low temperatures, there is only a pure Bose-Einstein condensate with no thermal cloud (right).

Beyond the boundaries of physics

These research activities are pooled at the "Centre for Integrated Quantum Science and Technology" (IQST). In this unique connection, scientists from Ulm and Stuttgart increasingly go beyond the boundaries of physics: for example, physicists, chemists, mathematicians and engineers work closely together in IQST research projects in order to transfer excellent research results in technical applications.

The Carl Zeiss Endowed Professorship for Hybrid Quantum Systems bridges the gap between solid-state/atomic physics and electrical engineering. By combining a variety of quantum mechanical systems, their strengths are combined and can be exploited for the safe transfer of information ("quantum cryptography "), for example, or the quantum computer.

Novel sensors for use in cells are an important objective of the Collaborative Research Centre/Transregio 21 and the BioQ group. In this connection, scientists focus on the manipulation of individual atoms in diamonds. Both of these groups of researchers include Prof Fedor Jelezko, one of the world's leading experts in the control of the smallest particles in solids - as demonstrated by the prestigious awards he has won.

Researchers at Ulm explore a new research area using nanodiamonds

In fact, a new research area has evolved in this area at Ulm University that is being explored by the "Quantum Devices and Biology" (BioQ) group: quantum biosciences. Researchers want to understand quantum effects in biological systems. To achieve this, they are developing sensing and imaging technologies that provide insight into the structure and function of individual bio-molecules under physiological conditions. With atomic resolution and down to the quantum level. Not only biomedical research and diagnostics, but also the pharmaceutical industry and the photovoltaic industry could benefit from these developments.

In order to pave the way for such frontier research, physics professors Martin Plenio and Fedor Jelezko and the chemist Prof Tanja Weil were awarded a Synergy Grant by the European Research Council (ERC) at the end of 2012. Worth € 10.3 million, it is the European Union's most highly endowed research instrument.

An important research goal pursued by BioQ is, therefore, tailor-made sensors and microscopes for the life sciences. These "tools" function due to synthetic diamonds that can detect electric and magnetic fields at the nano scale, enabling individual proteins to be investigated. Practical application opportunities may exist, say, in the development of pharmaceuticals. For example, diamond-based nano-microscopes can be used to observe the structure and dynamics of cell receptors that many drugs dock onto.

One of the intellectual fathers of the new research area quantum biology is Ulm's Martin Plenio, who holds an Alexander von Humboldt professorship. Within the BioQ group, he also intends to explore quantum phenomena in living organisms that are constantly exposed to interference. The researchers have set their sights on a wide range of phenomena such as the human sense of smell, photosynthesis and the flight of birds. The new measurement methods are to be used in the process.

Physics professors Martin Plenio and Fedor Jelezko and the chemist Prof Tanja Weil of the BioQ- research group.
Physics professors Martin Plenio and Fedor Jelezko and the chemist Prof Tanja Weil of the BioQ- research group.
Synthetic diamonds that can detect electric and magnetic fields at the nano scale.
Synthetic diamonds that can detect electric and magnetic fields at the nano scale.

Next goal: transfer to biomedicine

In the future, the BioQ group will involve more than 100 further scientists conducting research under one roof. A "Centre for Quantum Bio-Sciences" (ZQB) is being established at Ulm University, which will contain high-tech, globally unique labs tailored precisely to the researchers' needs.

In this way, it should be possible to transfer quantum physics to biomedical research. Prof Frank Kirchhoff, a renowned AIDS researcher, will also move into the research building. With the aid of nanomicroscopy, he hopes to gain a better understanding of how the HI virus docks onto cells.

In other words, there is enormous future and innovation potential in the world's first Centre for Quantum Bio-Sciences. One of the first success stories reported by the BioQ group was the development of a biosensor for determining iron content in blood. It goes without saying that this sensor is also based on diamonds.