9 December 2010

New accelerators to ensure cutting edge European research in nuclear physics

Europe is to get new particle accelerators and the current facilities at CERN, GSI and Ganil must be expanded and upgraded significantly over the next 10-15 years in order to continue to be leaders in nuclear research. This is the result of the new plan which the Nuclear Physics European Collaboration Committee, NuPECC, has prepared for the next 10-15 years’ development of European nuclear physics.

The Large Hadron Collider at CERNThe committee recommends a number of important new initiatives in nuclear physics, requiring powerful new accelerators and detectors. It proposes a concrete road map for the improvement of existing facilities and the development of practical applications of nuclear physics.

"There must be a focus on new areas, for example, a facility where you can research exotic reactions with unstable atomic nuclei in order to study the processes in supernova explosions and in stars, an expansion of the nuclear physics programme at CERN and the support of the many smaller laboratories in Europe that cover a wide range of specialties and application developments, and it is of great interest for Denmark to be part of the planning and implementation of this research", says professor at the Niels Bohr Institute, Jens Jørgen Gaardhøje, who is one of the six members of the steering group responsible for preparing the plan, published today in Brussels.

Nuclear physicists are working to understand the origin, evolution, and nature of the substances that makes up almost 100 percent of the visible matter in the universe. As the home of GANIL, GSI and CERN as well as an extensive network of facilities working closely together, Europe is the world leader in this field. Over the next decade, researchers will continue to look for answers to the big question: How did the universe’s matter evolve into what we know today and can this knowledge be used to address energy, health and environmental problems? 


"Nuclear physics projects are 'mega-research' requiring huge investments and years long start-up periods, which require careful planning and strong political backing", explains Guenther Rosner, the Chair of the Nuclear Physics European Collaboration Committee, NuPECC. "We can already see now where Europe needs to focus its efforts in order to remain a leader. In particular, it necessary both to upgrade our current facilities and invest in new research facilities with potential for more intense antimatter and rare isotope beams".
Guenther Rosner points out: "It is an extremely important and challenging task which requires efforts from both the theoretical and experimental researchers, foundations, politicians, and the people".

From physics to cancer treatment

The experimental methods and technologies of nuclear research have over time resulted in significant by-products, which can be applied practically in very different contexts. Examples are the MRI scanner, which is now used throughout medical diagnostics, and the use of ion beam therapy for the treatment of forms of cancer that cannot be operated on, for example, in the brain. Nuclear physics methods are also used, to a large extent, safety detectors, materials research and dating.

Furthermore, there is yet another definite advantage, namely that nuclear physics research teaches young people that the use of advanced methods and technologies is of great importance to society. 

Read NuPECC Long Range Plan >> 

Read NuPECC Long Range brochure >>