Research in Argonne’s Physics Division seeks to understand the origin, evolution and structure of the ordinary matter in the universe – everything made up of protons, neutrons and electrons. Through the operation of the Argonne Tandem Linear Accelerator System (ATLAS) as a national user facility, as well as diverse research programs in low energy, medium energy, accelerator and theoretical nuclear physics, Argonne’s Physics Division investigates how stars form and how different elemental isotopes – especially exotic short-lived ones – are created and structured.
The core of Argonne’s physics research, described in the themes below, tackles some of the most fundamental challenges in modern science, shaping our understanding of both tiny objects at the center of the atom and some of the largest structures in the universe.
Accelerator Development in Argonne’s Physics Division specializes in the design, fabrication and commissioning of high intensity ion and electron accelerator systems. The first use of superconducting niobium radio-frequency cavities for ion acceleration was in 1977 at Argonne’s Tandem Linac Accelerator System. Since then, the Accelerator Development Group has been a world leader in the field of radio-frequency superconductivity and its applications to accelerators.
The focus of Argonne’s hadron physics program is to understand the quark-gluon structure of matter. While Quantum Chromo-Dynamics (QCD) is understood to govern the interaction of quarks and gluons, the bound states of QCD — protons and neutrons — are unlike bound states associated with any other interactions.
Nuclear astrophysics includes the study of how all the elements in the universe were created and how stars evolve during their lifetime. Using the ATLAS facility, we study nuclear reactions that play a role in stars and try to answer fundamental questions such as: How are stars born and how do they die? How do they produce the energy that keeps them burning for billions of years? How do they create the elements we observe today?