In the MPG-PTB-RIKEN Centre, worldwide leading experimental groups in atomic and nuclear physics, antimatter research, quantum optics and metrology closely collaborate in order to measure time and natural constants even more accurately using their ultra-precise equipment. The goal is to find answers to fundamental questions of physics. One of these questions is whether natural constants really are constant or eventually change in time by tiny amounts. Another question deals with the subtle differences in the properties of matter and antimatter (besides the reversed charge), which did not yet show up, although they intrinsically must exist. Otherwise, the universe would practically consist of pure radiation, since the matter and antimatter particles created in equal amounts in the big bang would have annihilated. Closely related to this test of fundamental symmetries is the search for ‘new physics’ beyond the Standard Model of elementary particle physics.
The broad research portfolio particularly aims for the development of novel clocks based on atoms, nuclei and highly charged ions. In addition, improved measurements of fundamental constants such as the Rydberg constant, the fine-structure constant or the proton charge radius are envisaged. Further parts of the research initiative deal with stringent tests of fundamental interactions and symmetries using protons und antiprotons. To reach these goals, it is required to enhance further the presently achieved experimental precision. Therefore, the researchers intend to develop novel experimental techniques, which will outperform the state-of-the-art of contemporary methods and enable measurements at even shorter time scales and with improved sensitivity.
“The combined expertise of the individual groups with their in part complementary approaches and different methods has the potential for substantial progress“, hopefully emphasizes Stefan Ulmer, chief scientist at RIKEN und another spokesperson of the Centre. An essential element of synergy arises from an intense exchange programme for young scientists, who thereby will become familiar with the experiments of the partner Institutes.
The partners agreed to fund the MPG-PTB-RIKEN Centre in equal amounts with overall about 7.5 million Euro for five years. The scientific activities will be coordinated at Max Planck Institut for nuclear physics. Partners are the Max Planck Institute for quantum optics, the National Metrology Institute of Germany (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt) as well as RIKEN.