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German-Japanese cooperation for the measurement of fundamental physical parameters

In January 2024, the “Center for Time, Constants and Fundamental Symmetries” (TCFS) will enter its second funding period. This will further strengthen the cooperation between German and Japanese institutes established to develop highly sensitive instruments for fundamental measurements in atomic and nuclear physics, antimatter and dark matter research, quantum optics and metrology. Three partners – the Max Planck Institutes for Nuclear Physics (MPIK) and Quantum Optics (MPQ), the National Metrology Institute of Germany (PTB) and the Japanese flagship research institution RIKEN – will provide equal amounts of funding totalling around €7.5 million to finance the Center for a further five years. One of the three TCFS spokespersons is Dr Stefan Ulmer, professor of physics at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf (HHU).


The BASE experiment at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) examines fundamental properties of antimatter and is operated jointly by scientists from RIKEN, the Max Planck Society and the National Metrology Institute of Germany. (Photo: CERN/Stefan Ulmer)

The collaboration between the teams will allow topics such as precision measurements of time, constants of nature and tests of symmetries to be tackled with the aim of finding answers to the most fundamental questions in current physics.

One of these questions addresses the lack of antimatter in our universe, which indicates a subtle difference between matter and antimatter that strongly contradicts our present understanding of the creation of the universe. Another question addresses the possibility of whether fundamental physical constants may be subject to extremely small changes over time.

“The TCFS is a unique platform, which combines the outstanding expertise of the researchers to answer these questions of great scientific impact,” says Professor Klaus Blaum, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics (MPIK) and one of the spokespersons at the Center, about the research cooperation.

The diverse research programme is aimed at developing improved optical clocks based on atomic ions, hydrogen, nucleons and highly charged ions. In addition, the combined expertise of the partners opens up the possibility of improving measurements of fundamental physical constants such as electron mass, the fine-structure constant, the Rydberg constant or nuclear radii and searching for new physical phenomena such as a fifth force.

To achieve the scientific goals, advanced experiments that enable measurements at the highest precision and smallest time scales will be pursued. “TCFS brings together a group of world-leading researchers, who are uniquely positioned to realise the scientific aims successfully,” says PD Dr Ekkehard Peik, Chief Scientist at the PTB and a further TCFS spokesperson.

In addition, the joint efforts will facilitate the search for “dark matter”, a substance which is known to make up most of the matter in the universe, but which cannot be directly detected, meaning that its fundamental nature is unknown. To search for dark matter, concepts for novel experiments will be developed. “We expect the diverse competencies and methods of the experts at the TCFS to lead to substantial experimental advances here,” says Dr Stefan Ulmer, Chief Scientist at the RIKEN high energy physics laboratory in Japan and professor at the Chair of Experimental Physics at HHU. He is the third spokesperson at the Center.

The initiative for founding the MPG-PTB-RIKEN Center in 2019 came from MPIK and RIKEN in order to bring existing collaborations together. Partners are the Max Planck Institutes for Nuclear Physics and Quantum Optics, the National Metrology Institute of Germany and RIKEN. HHU is also involved through Professor Ulmer. The scientific activities are coordinated by Dr Andreas Mooser at MPIK.

Scientific contacts

Prof. Dr. Klaus Blaum, MPIK

Prof. Dr. Thomas Udem, MPIQ

PD Dr. Ekkehard Peik, PTB Department time and frequency

Prof. Dr. Stefan Ulmer, RIKEN Fundamental Symmetries Laboratory und HHU

Kategorie/n: Schlagzeilen, Pressemeldungen, Auch in Englisch, Math.-Nat.-Fak.-Aktuell, Forschung News, Forschungsnews Englisch

One of the TCFS spokespersons is Professor Dr Stefan Ulmer, Chief Scientist at the RIKEN high energy physics laboratory in Japan and professor of Experimental Physics at HHU. (Photo: CERN)

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