Research Field Matter

The Helmholtz research field Matter explores the constituent parts of matter and the forces acting between them over completely different orders of magnitude, from the smallest units, elementary particles, to the largest structures in the universe.


Helmholtz research on the structure of matter explores the building blocks of matter and the forces operating between them at a wide range of levels, from elementary particles to complex functional materials to gigantic objects and structures in the universe.

An important part of this work entails the development, construction and operation of large-scale devices and complex infrastructure. The Helmholtz Association provides researchers from Germany and abroad with a variety of large-scale scientific facilities that in many cases are unique, including detectors, data acquisition systems and particle accelerators for synchrotron-radiation, neutron and ion sources. Two planned facilities will create research infrastructure in Germany that is unrivalled in the world: the European X-ray laser XFEL, which is being built by the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY in collaboration with European partners, and the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR), which will be constructed with international partners at the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt. The Helmholtz Alliances “Physics at the Terascale”, “Extreme Densities and Temperatures – Cosmic Matter in the Laboratory” and “Astroparticle Physics” have brought together expertise from Helmholtz centres, universities and Max Planck institutes. Platforms such as CFEL, HIC for FAIR, KNMF, NanoLab, EMSC and CSSB are further strengthening these ties with universities and research centres from Germany and abroad.


The research on the structure of matter is organized in three programmes. All disciplines related to basic research – particle and astroparticle physics, physics of hadrons and nuclei, and atomic and plasma physics – will be combined in the “Matter and the Universe” programme. In the second programme, “From Matter to Materials and Life”, the operators of modern radiation sources will work closely with an international user community from the natural sciences, engineering and medicine to develop new materials and active substances and to investigate phenomena in condensed matter, electromagnetic plasmas and biological systems. The third programme, “Matter and Technologies”, will focus on new technological concepts for fields such as particle acceleration, detector systems and the optimization of high-performance computing and data storage. The goal of this restructuring process is to strengthen synergies and to develop enabling technologies for the world of tomorrow.

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