On 3 October 2023, the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, together with Munich Quantum Valley and the Munich Center for Quantum Science and Technology, invited children and adults alike to take a look behind the doors of the institute and learn about the world of quantum optics and its technological applications, such as quantum computing.
At 10 o’clock in the morning, the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (MPQ) opened its doors first and foremost to a younger audience as part of the “Maus-Türöffnertag”, a nationwide campaign day of the German children’s TV show "Sendung mit der Maus". At noon, the program seamlessly transitioned to an Open House, which was aimed primarily at adolescents and adults. Even before 10am, a line of children and their parents formed in front of the institute and stormed the MPQ just in time for the start of the Maustag. From then on, the stream of visitors did not stop until the end of the event.
In the foyer, young and old crowded around the booths of Munich Quantum Valley (MQV) and the Munich Center for Quantum Science and Technology (MCQST) and learned more about exciting quantum phenomena such as superposition and, in particular, quantum computing. A real superconducting quantum chip and a model of trapped atoms showed how different the technological approaches are to realize hardware for quantum computers. As a souvenir of the day, the visitors had the opportunity to have a badge with MQV and MCQST motifs made for them.
The children were able to immerse themselves in the fascinating world of quanta, especially during the live performance of the second episode of "Alice im Quantenland", a children's audio play of the MPQ school laboratory PhotonLab, and to try their hand at numerous experiments. For the older guests, the "Quantum Bead Game" by MQV member Prof. Steffen Glaser offered an opportunity to get a handle on the abstract concept of the quantum bit. By turning the colored beads, each representing a quantum bit, visitors were able to follow computational operations and small quantum algorithms. Guided tours were offered in the new "QuantenLabor" of the PhotonLab, which was set up at the MPQ and financed by MQV. Here, visitors learned all about wave-particle duality, which is demonstrated in the QuantenLabor by means of an experiment with single photons.
The news about the Nobel Prize for MPQ Director Ferenc Krausz caused some last-minute changes to the program, but above all joyful excitement among both the organizers and the visitors. Krausz himself was involved in the program of the Open Day, and the visitors were amazed when they heard a lecture by the newly awarded Nobel Prize laureate even before the press had even arrived.
Another highlight was the lab tours, which gave attendees a look into the heart of the MPQ. Many visitors were impressed by the number of lenses, mirrors, objectives and other optical components placed close together on the optical tables and the many cable harnesses that have to be tucked away in the laboratories. Among other things, they learned how these setups can be used to cool and trap individual atoms for applications in quantum communication or quantum computing.
Deeper insights into how to store and process information in individual atoms and ultimately use these to build a quantum computer were given in the talk by Dr. Andrea Alberti, whose research group is developing a quantum-computer demonstrator based on trapped strontium atoms as part of Munich Quantum Valley.
The open day at MPQ was embedded in a variety of activities for young and old at the Research Campus Garching. Other MQV institutes, such as Fraunhofer AISEC and the Leibniz Supercomputing Center, also participated and offered visitors insights into their research.