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The Research Field Matter - from the Microworld to the Whole Universe

Matter is the basic material of our existence. Stars and planets are made of it, as are humans and microbes.

Credit: European XFEL/Blue Clay Studios

The Helmholtz Research Field Matter explores the most diverse facets - from the tiny elementary particles to the big picture, the cosmos: How has the universe developed since the Big Bang? And what do the basic building blocks of matter look like, what holds them together? Both questions are closely related: Those particles that had been created in the first moments of the universe had decisively shaped its development.

Furthermore, the research area investigates those regions that lie between these two extremes - for example crystals, plastics or proteins. Their properties are determined by the interaction of the atoms and molecules that make them up. And the more precisely we understand the highly complex interplay of these atoms and molecules, the more precisely we can develop new high-tech materials,electronic materials and medicines. By analyzing the microscopic structure of a wide variety of materials, we are not only creating insights that are sometimes completely unexpected, but also essential foundations for future innovations.

To achieve its goals, Helmholtz operates a number of top-class large-scale research facilities. For example, the synchrotron radiation sources PETRA III in Hamburg and BESSY II in Berlin provide high-intensity X-ray light that can be used to analyze the structure of nanomaterials and biomolecules down to the atom. Helmholtz is also significantly involved in numerous international research facilities - such as the world's most powerful X-ray laser, the European XFEL in Hamburg, or the experiments at the world's largest particle accelerator, the LHC, at CERN in Geneva. In the future, further scientific beacons will be added: FAIR, the world's most powerful accelerator complex for nuclear and hadron physics, is being built in Darmstadt. This deals with the study of all particles containing the tiny elementary particles quarks, known as hadrons. Among other things, FAIR will provide answers to the question of how the chemical elements inside a star are "baked" in detail.

The Research Field Matter works closely with other Helmholtz fields as well as with universities, companies and research organizations in Germany and abroad. In this way, it creates synergies between basic and application-oriented research and continues to develop into a magnet for young scientists.


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Helmut Dosch

Research field coordinator Matter
Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron

Ilja Bohnet

Chief Research Manager Matter
Helmholtz Association

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