Photonics is concerned with the generation and application of predominantly coherent electromagnetic waves in the visible and immediately adjacent spectral ranges. Since the invention of the laser, it has developed to become a prominent technology. Established applications range from optical communication to high-performance material processing, state-of-the-art medicine, and universal analytics. The primary research area in photonics is engaged in basic research at the highest international level.

A key focus is the technical development of innovative photonic sources, particularly in the terahertz-, MIR- and XUV spectra and their application in process technology, process engineering and medicine. Building on already highly-developed femtosecond laser technology, application-specific, optimised high-performance laser systems and innovative laser-driven consistent radiation sources are being developed for applications in XUV microscopy and lithography. Research activities include basic optical process technologies as well as the enhancement and redevelopment of modern integrated optical components (THz photonics), which forms a basis for developments in communication technology, environmental technology, sensor technology and biomedicine.

The field of photonics is seeing strong international growth that is already reflected in a corresponding focus in the EU's 7th framework programme. One of the reasons for the exceptional scientific success in the primary research area of photonics lies in the fact that quantum effects can be directly implemented technologically. Quantum cascade lasers or quantum information technology are prominent examples of this, only made possible by a combination of findings from basic research and advances in materials science and nanotechnology. All research and development work is endorsed by the Center for Micro and Nanostructures.  This enables the implementation of new concepts by combining photonics with the latest nanotechnology, known as nanophotonics.

The high level of experimental expertise in the photonics field firstly results from the laser laboratory for high performance femtosecond technology and terahertz technology. The Center for Micro and Nanostructures (ZMNS) forms the technological backbone for the development and execution of globally unique experiments in femtosecond laser technology and for the independent manufacture of innovative components in optoelectronics and nano-photonics based on iii-v semiconductors.