Nuclear Physics

Main topics

The Institute for Advanced Physical Studies conducts research in the following areas of nuclear physics:

The big picture

More than 99% of the matter on Earth is concentrated in the atomic nuclei. The knowledge of these objects is therefore essential for our understanding of the past and the present of our world. IAPS investigates only a fraction of the phenomena which the atomic nucleus can reveal.

The quarks and the gluons which make up the basic constituents of nuclei – the protons and the neutrons – are explored by colliding heavy nuclei at relativistic speeds. The particular state which is formed in this process in called “quark-gluon plasma” and it is believed to have existed during the first thousands of a second after the Big Bang. The ALICE experiment at CERN, in which the IAPS is becoming an associate member, studies such a primordial “soup” from the moment of its formation to the subsequent relaxation into more stable hadrons.

As the Universe cooled only the lightest elements were formed and existed in the free space. The heavier elements were synthesized much later at different stages of the stars’ evolution. The human endeavor to create elements heavier than those produced in stars has been a major topic in nuclear physics for decades. IAPS members have been participating in the discoveries of the heaviest nuclei known to mankind due to the active collaboration with the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna. In particular the chemical identification of the newly produced nuclei is founded on the trends predicted by the periodic law. One major challenge of modern chemistry is to observe and study elements which belong to the 8th period with yet unobserved g electrons for which relativistic effects are expected to play an important role.

In order to understand better the nucleosynthesis in stars, isotopes at the border of nuclear stability which take an essential part of this process, need to be explored. The quantitative description of these short lived nuclei requires new complementary approaches to the well-established many-body theories which are applicable mainly to more stable isotopes.