Division C: Nonlinear Processes in Condensed Matter

Director: Prof. Dr. N. Picqué, Humboldt University, Berlin

Division C is headed by Prof. Dr. Nathalie Picqué since October 1, 2023. She holds a joint appointment in experimental physics with HU Berlin.

This webpage will be updated to provide an overview of the scientific activities that are pursued in the new Division C. The Division studies the interaction between light and matter. Our research covers various areas of spectroscopy and nonlinear optics. Topics include interferometry, precision spectroscopy, 3D imaging, quantum physics, molecular spectroscopy, femtosecond two-dimensional spectroscopy, ultrafast optics and laser frequency combs. Applications range from tests of fundamental laws of physics laws to label-free identification of bio-molecules. We are exploring advanced photonics tools, such as optical frequency combs, ultrashort pulse lasers and novel nonlinear optics, to reach beyond the limits of what has been possible in the past.

Previously the Division was headed by Prof. Dr. Thomas Elsaesser until September 30, 2022. Ultrafast processes in condensed matter and their applications in technology represent the main research topics of Division C. Dynamics of equilibrium fluctuations and nonequilibrium excitations are studied in bulk and nanostructured solids, in particular semiconductors and ferroelectrics, molecular liquids, and hydrated biomolecules. This work aims at a basic physical understanding of processes and interactions at the atomic and molecular scale. It makes use of the most advanced methods of ultrafast spectroscopy, including femtosecond two-dimensional spectroscopy in the infrared and terahertz spectral range. Photoinduced structural dynamics of (poly)crystalline materials represent a complementary research topic which is addressed by femtosecond x-ray diffraction and absorption techniques. Novel lasers for ultrashort pulses, methods for measurements on ultrashort time scales, and the characterization of optoelectronic devices are subjects of applied research in Division C.

Division C consists of three departments:

Department Department Head
C1Femtosecond Spectroscopty of Molecular SystemsErik Nibbering
C2Solid State Light SourcesGünter Steinmeyer
C3Femtosecond Spectroscopy of SolidsMichael Wörner


In summary the areas of competence are described as follows:


  • Spectroscopy of solids and molecular liquids in the sub-50 fs regime
  • Femtosecond nonlinear infrared and terahertz spectroscopy of solids and molecules including multidimensional techniques
  • Femtosecond x-ray diffraction and absorption
  • Generation of femtosecond pulses in diode-pumped solid state and fiber lasers and OPCPA systems, wavelength range 200 nm - 20 µm
  • Generation of intense terahertz pulses and field-resolved characterization
  • Generation of hard x-ray pulses in laser-driven laboratory sources
  • Spectroscopic techniques for studies of aging and strain in laser diodes


Analysis and Simulation

  • Nonlinear high-field transport in solids
  • Time-resolved charge density maps in solids
  • Nonlinear two-dimensional vibrational and terahertz spectra

In the framework of the research structure of the MBI, scientists of division C participate in the following projects:

Close Collaborations also exist between

3.1 and project 2.1 Time-resolved XUV-science

3.1 and project 3.2 Solids and Nanostructures: Electrons, Spins, and Phonons