The Helmholtz Alliance “Cosmic Matter in the Laboratory”

A better understanding of hot and cold matter

In the Helmholtz Alliance “Cosmic Matter in the Laboratory”, scientists at the ExtreMe Matter Institute (EMMI) conduct research on how matter behaves at extremely high and low temperatures and at very high density.

They research the hottest and coldest forms of matter in the universe. Contemporary understanding of these forms of matter is based on common concepts, which are being developed further at EMMI.

  • Duration: April 2008 to March 2014
  • Total funding: €18.75 million
  • Lead centre:  GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research
  • Spokesperson: Prof. Peter Braun-Munzinger
  • Participating Helmholtz Centres: GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, Forschungszentrum Jülich
  • Universities: Darmstadt, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Münster, Marie et Pierre Curie – Paris VI (France), Tokyo (Japan)
  • Partner institutes: FIAS Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics JINA (US), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory LBNL (US), RIKEN (Japan)


The EMMI researches widely varying types of matter. The hottest known form of matter is quark-gluon plasma, which filled the universe for a split-second after the big bang. Today, it can only be briefly created and analysed during heavy-ion collisions, like those being researched in the ALICE experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. At everyday temperatures quarks and gluons, the elementary building blocks of atomic nuclei, are contained in protons and neutrons. However, at the temperatures produced during heavy-ion collisions they form a kind of fluid called quark-gluon plasma. The coldest forms of matter are ultra-cold quantum gases, which were recently produced in a laboratory for the first time. The densest form of matter is found inside neutron stars. Other types of matter that are being researched at EMMI include atoms in strong electromagnetic fields and plasmas produced using powerful lasers.

A common trait among these very different forms of matter is that many particles interact strongly with one another, making theoretical descriptions difficult. At EMMI experts are developing new interdisciplinary research approaches and methods to better understand matter under such extreme conditions. The many workshops that form a major part of EMMI’s activities play a key role in this. The results of the work at EMMI will also be used to plan the experiments that will take place at the planned FAIR accelerator facility.

Further information:

Visit the website of the Helmholtz Alliance “Cosmic Matter in the Laboratory”

Print Version


  • Photo of Andreas Schulze
    • Andreas Schulze
    • Program Officer, Initiative and Networking Fund: Research cluster and strategic partnerships
      Helmholtz Association