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University of Heidelberg to Participate in Helmholtz Alliance

26 November 2007

The physics institutes of the University of Heidelberg are involved in the "Cosmic Matter in the Laboratory” Alliance recently approved by the Senate of the Helmholtz Association – The subject is the formation of matter under extreme conditions


In the last few days, the Senate of the Helmholtz Association has given the go-ahead for four more Helmholtz Alliances. They include "Cosmic Matter in the Laboratory”, a project proposed by the Heavy-Ion Research Society (GSI, Darmstadt) and involving the physics institutes of the University of Heidelberg. The Helmholtz Alliances are an integral part of the Pact for Research and Innovation and their purpose is to enhance excellence and to promote research networks with universities. Accordingly, the Alliances bring together scientists from Helmholtz Centres with research institutions both in Germany itself and abroad to tackle issues with major potential for the future.

A central objective of the "Cosmic Matter in the Laboratory” Alliance is the establishment of the "ExtreMe Matter Institute” (EMMI) at the location of the Heavy-Ion Research Society (GSI) in Darmstadt. "The new institute is designed as an international centre bringing together various sub-disciplines in physics,” says Professor Johanna Stachel of the Institute of Physics (University of Heidelberg). The Alliance assembles a wide range of eleven different partners for the Heidelberg physicists, including the Heidelberg Max Planck Institute of Nuclear Physics, the University of Paris VI, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (USA) and the University of Tokyo.

The new Alliance will be focusing its attention on the formation of matter under extreme conditions, such as those prevailing after the Big Bang or in supernova explosions. The requisite experiments will be carried out at locations like the new CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva and the FAIR accelerator facility at the GSI taking shape over the next few years and one of the biggest facilities of its kind for ion and antiproton research.

"The EMMI institute will also be a think-tank for FAIR,” says Professor Stachel in response to the question about the kind of work the scientists will be doing at the new institute. It includes establishing what it is precisely that FAIR will be measuring and ensuring that the equipment required is in place. For this purpose the scientists at the new institute will be conferring in the framework of workshops or seminars.

The Helmholtz Association is funding the Alliance to the tune of 18.75 million euros, with the participating institutes and research institutions providing a further 54 million. The contribution from the University of Heidelberg amounts to no less than 11 million euros, accounted for by two new professorships plus the involvement of existing research groups and external funding earmarked for investment in experiments and scientific staff.

Issues connected with many-particle physics will be addressed by one of the new chairs in conjunction with the research groups headed by Professors Christof Wetterich and Hans-Jürgen Pirner at the Institute of Theoretical Physics. At the Institute of Physics Professors Johanna Stachel and Norbert Herrmann will be spearheading the work involved in experiments with quark-gluon plasma at the LHC. By contrast, the research group led by Professor Markus Oberthaler at the Kirchhoff Institute of Physics will be supporting the Alliance from an entirely different vantage, that of ultra-cold gases. At first glance, this cooperation may appear unexpected but "there are major commonalities between the physics of stars with their high temperatures and the physics of ultra-cold gases,” explains Professor Stachel. Enhancing our understanding of the formation of matter under extreme temperature and pressure conditions is the ultimate objective of all the researchers involved in the Alliance.
Stefan Zeeh

Please address any inquiries to
Prof. Dr. Johanna Stachel
Institute of Physics
Philosophenweg 12
D-69120 Heidelberg
phone: 06221/549224

Dr. Michael Schwarz
Public Information Officer
University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 542317

Irene Thewalt
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 542317
Editor: Email
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