Our office sponsors research in many experimental and theoretical fields. We support research groups at many Universities and National Laboratories.
Jump down to nuclear physics research on: Heavy Ions, Medium Energy, Low Energy, Theory, Accelerators, Isotopes
Heavy Ion Physics Research
The Heavy Ion subprogram investigates the high temperature frontier of QCD, by trying to recreate and characterize new and predicted forms of matter and other new phenomena that might occur in extremely hot, dense nuclear matter and which have not existed since the Big Bang. Measurements are carried out primarily using relativistic heavy ion collisions at RHIC, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Lab. Participation in the heavy ion program at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) provides U.S. researchers the opportunity to search for new states of matter under substantially different initial conditions than those provided by RHIC, yet still provide information regarding the matter that existed during the infant universe.
Medium Energy Nuclear Physics Research
The Medium Energy subprogram primarily explores the low temperature frontier of QCD to understand how the properties of existing matter arise from the properties of QCD. This research is conducted at two NP National User Facilities and other facilities worldwide. The Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (TJNAF or JLab) provides high quality beams of polarized electrons that allow scientists to extract information on the quarks and gluons that make up protons and neutrons. CEBAF also uses polarized electrons to make precision measurements of parity-violating processes that can provide information relevant to the third frontier to develop the New Standard Model. The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) provides colliding beams of spin-polarized protons to probe the spin structure of the proton, another important aspect of the QCD frontier. This subprogram supports one university 'Center of Excellence' with infrastructure capabilities to develop advanced instrumentation and accelerator equipment.
Low Energy Nuclear Physics Research
The Low Energy subprogram studies the frontiers of Nuclear Structure and Astrophysics and Fundamental Symmetry and Neutrinos. Two NP National User Facilities are pivotal in making progress in these frontiers. The Argonne Tandem Linac Accelerator System (ATLAS) at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) is used to study questions of nuclear structure by providing high-quality beams of all the stable elements up to uranium and selected beams of short-lived nuclei for experimental studies of nuclear properties under extreme conditions and reactions of interest to nuclear astrophysics. The Holifield Radioactive Ion Beam Facility (HRIBF) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) provides beams of short-lived radioactive nuclei that scientists use to study exotic nuclei that do not normally exist in nature. HRIBF is also used to explore reactions of interest to nuclear astrophysics. The future Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) is a next-generation machine that will advance the understanding of rare nuclear isotopes and the evolution of the cosmos. The subprogram supports four university "Centers of Excellence," three with unique low energy accelerator facilities and one with infrastructure capabilities for developing advanced instrumentation. The program also partners with the National Reconnaissance Office and the United States Air Force to support limited operations of the 88-Inch Cyclotron at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) for a small in-house research program and to meet national security needs.
Also within the portfolio of this subprogram are experiments designed to develop a better understanding of the properties of neutrinos and, in particular, of their masses. This science is typically explored with large detectors buried underground to shield them from backgrounds so that they can detect rare particle signals. Measurements of symmetry properties, particularly the symmetry properties of the neutron, are carried out by nuclear physicists at the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) at ORNL.
Theoretical Nuclear Physics Research
The Nuclear Theory subprogram provides the theoretical underpinning needed to support the interpretation of a wide range of data obtained from all the other NP subprograms and to advance new ideas and hypotheses that stimulate experimental investigations. This subprogram supports the Institute for Nuclear Theory (INT) at the University of Washington, where leading nuclear theorists are assembled from across the Nation to focus on key frontier areas in nuclear physics. The subprogram also collects, evaluates, and disseminates nuclear physics data for basic nuclear research and for applied nuclear technologies with its support of the National Nuclear Data Center (NNDC). The extensive nuclear databases produced by this effort are an international resource consisting of carefully organized scientific information gathered over 50 years of low-energy nuclear physics research worldwide.
Accelerator Physics Research
The Nuclear Physics program supports a broad range of activities aimed at research and development related to the science, engineering, and technology for accelerators of electrons, protons and heavy ions. Research and development is supported that will advance fundamental accelerator technology and its applications to nuclear physics scientific research. Areas of interest include the basic technologies of the Brookhaven National Laboratory�s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), with heavy ion beam energies up to 100 GeV/amu and polarized proton beam energies up to 250 GeV; technologies associated with RHIC luminosity upgrades; the development of an electron-ion collider (EIC); linear accelerators such as the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (TJNAF); and development of devices and methods that would be useful in the generation of intense rare isotope beams for the next-generation rare isotope beam accelerator facility (FRIB). A major focus in all of the above areas is superconducting radio frequency (RF) acceleration and its related technologies. Also, as recommended in the last NSAC Long Range Plan, accelerator research and development on the most challenging technical issues related to the EIC, the future Electron Ion Collider, will soon be supported.