German Council of Science and Humanities endorses construction of Center of Fundamental Physics research building at Mainz University

Investment volume of about EUR 61 million / Renewed recognition of the quality of research into particle and hadron physics being undertaken at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz


The German Council of Science and Humanities has agreed to support an application by Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) for federal and state funding for a new research building for particle, astro-particle, and hadron physics. The Funding for University Buildings program is designed to exclusively provide financing for the construction of buildings housing research projects of multi-regional significance and characterized by innovative and interdisciplinary research concepts. Work on the new building would be scheduled to start in 2016. The federal government and the state of Rhineland-Palatinate are to provide equal shares of the total investment of more than EUR 61 million. This would also cover the cost of procuring several spectrometers and detector systems that are necessary for achieving the research objectives of the Center of Fundamental Physics (CFP). The Joint Science Conference will make its final decision on the recommendation of the German Council of Science and Humanities on June 19, 2015.

"The recommendation made by the German Council of Science and Humanities underlines once again the excellent reputation of Mainz as a science hub and the quality of research being undertaken at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, particularly in its core research area of physics. The recommendation further demonstrates that the Rhineland-Palatinate Research Initiative that is designed to provide targeted backing to outstanding fields of research is clearly a step in the right direction. The success achieved by the Cluster of Excellence 'Precision Physics, Fundamental Interactions and Structure of Matter' (PRISMA) in the German Excellence Initiative can be attributed to this support by the state," emphasized Professor Thomas Deufel, State Secretary for Science in Rhineland-Palatinate. For the period 2008 to 2016, the state has made some EUR 160 million available to its institutes of higher education – in addition to core funding. "It is our objective to promote research in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate in the long term," Deufel added. This is confirmed by the submission of the application for the CFP research building to the German Council of Science and Humanities and the associated promise of more than EUR 30 million from state coffers.

"The research building and the new large-scale equipment will put in place the conditions needed to penetrate even further into the innermost nature of matter and might also help establish a new model of physics. The fact that the German Council of Science and Humanities has made this recommendation not only enhances the reputation of our researchers involved but also illustrates the effectiveness of JGU's strategy of systematically and consistently developing those areas in which it is particularly successful in research," explained Professor Georg Krausch, President of Mainz University.

The research program of the proposed Center of Fundamental Physics represents a significant extension and continuation of the research program of the PRISMA Cluster of Excellence at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. The researchers here focus on the most critical problems in elementary particle physics in order to obtain further insight into the structure of matter and its relevance to the evolution of the universe. Of particular importance in this context is research into dark matter, i.e., the material that constitutes by far the greater proportion of matter in the universe, as well as the search for evidence that supports the new physics concept and provides explanations for aspects that are not accounted for in the so-called Standard Model of elementary particle physics. Neutrino and astro-particle physics are central to research in this field. Detecting the effects of weakly interacting particles is the main experimental difficulty. "Exploring the weakly interacting universe is probably one of the most interesting challenges facing fundamental physics in this century and will form the main scientific focus at the CFP," the PRISMA coordinators Professor Matthias Neubert and Professor Hartmut Wittig pointed out.

The new research building would provide the necessary infrastructure to implement the CFP research program and would consist of two separate parts: one with laboratories and offices and one with an underground experimental hall. The above-ground section is planned to accommodate six newly established working groups from the core research fields of neutrino physics, astro-particle physics, dark matter, precision physics at low energy, and accelerator physics. In addition, this section of the building will house special laboratories for detector development together with a clean room and an assembly hall in which larger detector units can be constructed. There will also be a conference room and office facilities for visiting researchers and the administration. The underground experimental hall would make it possible to implement an extensive and long-term experimental program at the future MESA particle accelerator, which is currently under construction at the JGU Institute of Nuclear Physics. "The hall will cover the need for additional space for experiments, as the MESA research program has been significantly extended since its inception," explained Professor Hartmut Wittig.

Fundamental physics is one of the cornerstones of the institutional strategy of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. The new center will further boost the research profile of JGU in this field. Research at the CFP will examine the limits of the Standard Model of physics – starting from the weakest to the highest energies in a program coordinating both theory and experimentation. The use of the whole spectrum of available methodologies and the utilization of highly specialized local research facilities are other unique features of this research program. "The construction of the CFP at Mainz University will result in the establishment of a center of international importance that will be at the forefront of fundamental research in physics for the next 20 years," underlined Professor Matthias Neubert.