The institute is concerned with fundamental research in nuclear physics, particle physics, astrophysics, atmospheric physics and other topics. It started as the department of physics at the Max-Planck-Institut für Medizinische Forschung (medical research) directed by Walther Bothe. In 1958 it became an independent Max-Planck institute under the management of Wolfgang Gentner. Since 1966 a board of directors leads the institute, which currently consists of Prof. Dr. Werner Hofmann, Prof. Dr. Konrad Mauersberger, Prof. Dr. Bogdan Povh, Prof. Dr. Dirk Schwalm, Prof. Dr. Heinrich J. Völk and Prof. Dr. Hans A. Weidenmüller. About 500 persons work at the institute: 280 staff members (among them 75 scientists), plus 90 diploma students, 60 graduate students, and 70 guest scientists. The two main research buildings are named after the founders on the institute, Walther-Bothe-Laboratorium and Wolfgang-Gentner-Laboratorium. Additional buildings house the library, the electronics and mechanical shops, and the accelerator facilities and experimental areas.
Scientists of the Walther-Bothe Laboratorium try to reveal the structure of atomes, nuclei and the structure and interactions of hadrons. At the institute a 12 MV tandem accelerator for heavy ions, a 25 MV linear accelerator, and a storage ring serve this purpose. The heavy-ion storage ring is also used for research in molecular physics and accelerator techniques such as laser cooling. In addition, groups at the institute participate in experiments with particle beams of higher energy at the GSI in Darmstadt, at DESY in Hamburg, and at CERN in Geneva. For example, the structure functions of nucleons were measured by the NMC experiment and their spin dependance will be the subject of the HERMES experiment. The physics of heavy hadrons was investigated in the ARGUS experiment and the hyperon experiment WA-89. This experimental program continues in two new experiments, the SELEX experiment at Fermilab and the HERA-B experiment at DESY. A double beta decay experiment in the Gran Sasso underground laboratory searches for indications of a neutrino rest mass.
Recently, a new field of investigation is growing in importance, the earth-bound high energy astrophysics, where work is carried out in close cooperation between particle physicists and the astrophysics group in the Wolfgang-Gentner-Laboratorium. Air showers induced by cosmic rays are studied by measuring the tracks of charged particles and the Cherenkov light on ground.
The theory group focuses on the dynamics of chaotic many-body quantum systems, as for example nuclei or mesoscopic systems. It also addresses the effect of random two-body forces in many-body systems, and the appliance of quantization on the light cone to problems in quantum chromodynamics.
The scientific program of the Wolfgang-Gentner-Laboratorium grew out of the application of techniques developed for nuclear physics to the study of the composition and age of solar-system materials. Our experience in mass spectroscopy is used in balloon, rocket, and airplane missions to investigate the upper layers of the atmosphere.
The processes which are important to the ozone layer in the stratosphere are of special interest in the atmospheric physics department. This department was extended in 1994 after the appointment of Prof. Mauersberger as a director at the institute. The main activities concentrate on ozone research and processes which influence the distribution of ozone in the atmosphere. Laboratory experiments and field measurements complement each other.
Dedicated detectors installed on satellites (Galileo, Ulysses) measure the chemical composition and the origin of interplanetary dust. Work on infrared properties of interstellar dust resulted in a research program on carbon molecules and fullerenes. The methods developed to detect extremely small quantities of radioactivity are applied in the GALLEX experiment to measure the neutrinos emitted from the interior of the sun.
Particle acceleration and gamma-ray emission of galactic and extragalactic sources are investigated theoretically. This work is closely related to the experimental activity in earth-bound high energy astrophysics. The analysis of galaxies and of clusters of galaxies and, in particular their infrared emission is another major activity in astrophysics.
Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik
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