Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics

Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics

Many of the details concerning how the world arrived at its current form are still unexplained. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics want to close some of the gaps in our knowledge and thus contribute to an all-encompassing theory for this development. In astroparticle physics they study the structure and the formation history of the universe, which is closely related to the elementary structure of matter. With the H.E.S.S. gamma-ray telescope, for example, they observe the remnants of supernovae. The scientists also investigate the properties of neutrinos, ghost-like elementary particles, and probe the character of dark matter. In the area of quantum dynamics they are interested, for instance, in the interaction of the smallest particles in atomic nuclei, atoms and molecules, which they study in accelerators, storage rings and traps. They also learn more about molecules by controlling simple chemical reactions with intense laser light.


Saupfercheckweg 1
69117 Heidelberg
Phone: +49 6221 516-0

PhD opportunities

This institute has several International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS):

IMPRS for Quantum Dynamics in Physics, Chemistry and Biology
IMPRS for Precision Tests of Fundamental Symmetries

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Stored and cooled ions


Department Theoretical quantum dynamics and quantum electrodynamics


Department Particle and astroparticle physics


Department Quantum dynamics and control


Department Particle physics and high-energy astrophysics


Using the H.E.S.S. observatory, researchers at GRB 190829A observe unusual features that challenge models


The extremely precise control of nuclear excitations opens up possibilities of ultra-precise atomic clocks and powerful nuclear batteries


Many publications by Max Planck scientists in 2020 were of great social relevance or met with a great media response. We have selected 13 articles to present you with an overview of some noteworthy research of the year


Measuring ultrafast reactions


Mass of the deuteron corrected

September 02, 2020

New insights into the reliability of fundamental quantities in atomic and nuclear physics


Black holes, pulsars, remnants of exploded stars – these celestial bodies accelerate particles to enormous energies and emit high-energy gamma radiation. The two observatories known as H.E.S.S. and MAGIC, whose construction was supervised by the Max Planck Institutes for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg and Physics in Munich, make this extreme spectral region accessible.

Neutrinos are particles with seemingly magical powers: the different types are able to transform into one another, and thus have a mass. This discovery earned two scientists the 2015 Nobel Prize for Physics. A quarter of a century ago, these ghostly particles also attracted the attention of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg for the first time. While conducting their Gallex experiment to hunt for them, they looked deep into the furnace of the Sun.

If cosmologists are correct, there is a form of matter in the universe that is six times moreabundant than the matter we know. It is invisible, which is why it’s called dark matter.Postulated for the first time 80 years ago, it has yet to be detected directly. Researchers atthe Max Planck Institute for Physics in Munich and the Max Planck Institute for NuclearPhysics in Heidelberg want to solve this cosmic mystery in the next few years.

Earth is subjected to continuous bombardment. At any point in time, somewhere in the depths of the universe, a star explodes or a black hole ejects gigantic gas clouds from the core of a distant galaxy. These aggressive events are heralded by gamma rays, whichtravel straight through the universe and eventually impact on the Earth’s atmosphere. But this is the end of the line – fortunately for all life, as the energy dose would be lethal in the long term. However, the gamma light doesn’t vanish completely into thin air – a lucky break for astronomers, who can then use it to investigate the cosmic messengers. The radiation leaves its traces in a cascade of particles high above the ground. In the process, a large number of elementary particles are created, which generate Cherenkov radiation – blue flashes that last only one billionth of a second and can’t be seen with the naked eye.In order to record this celestial light, researchers built the four H.E.S.S. telescopes in the Khomas Highland in Namibia several years ago – and they are now converting this quartet into a quintet. H.E.S.S. II is the name of the new dish, which our picture shows bathed in moonlight as it stretches upward like a steel pyramid into the night sky. With a diameter of 28 meters, it roughly corresponds to the area of two tennis courts. And this giant weighs in at no fewer than 580 tons; its camera eye alone weighs three tons. The five scouts of the High Energy Stereoscopic System record the blue flashes with all the tricks of the astronomical observation trade. Securing the evidence in the data then leads to the scene of the crime, as it were: to the source of the radiation. Thus, the astronomers at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, which played an important role in the development and design of H.E.S.S. II as well as coordinating the installation work, also play the role of detectives. Their efforts will soon enable us to better understand the cosmic particle catapults, such as supernovae and black holes.

Physics in the Balance

MPR 4 /2010 Physics & Astronomy

Researchers use clever methods to weigh even tiny atomic nuclei; and in doing so, help to shed light on key questions in physics.

Heaven on Earth

MPR 1 /2010 Physics & Astronomy

Astrophysicists use laboratory equipment to simulate chemical reactions that take place in distant interstellar clouds.

Post-Doctoral Research Associate (m/f/d)

Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics, Heidelberg October 27, 2021

Novel approach to understand the Higgs particle's mass

2020 Goertz, Florian

Particle Physics

The discovery of a Higgs-like particle at the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC) represents one of the biggest findings of the last decades. Notwithstanding, its small mass is in conflict with general physical arguments. Most of the models that can address this issue, by considering the Higgs particle to be composed of more fundamental states, however predict light partner particles of the top quark, which have not been found yet at the LHC. A novel mechanism of symmetry breaking could resolve this tension.


A breath of eternity: The slowest nuclear transition ever observed

2019 Simgen, Hardy; Marrodán Undagoitia, Teresa; Lindner, Manfred

Astrophysics Particle Physics

Is there anything older than our Universe? Surely not, but billions of years appear as a blink of an eye compared to some extremely slow processes. Physicists of the XENON1T collaboration detected such a process. It is the radioactive decay of the xenon-124 atomic nucleus, the slowest decay process ever measured. The half-life of this extremely rare nuclear transformation is for unimaginably long 1.8 × 1022 years. This corresponds to about a trillion times the age of the Universe!


HAWC: a very high energy gamma-ray observatory

2018 Schoorlemmer, Harm; Hinton, Jim

Astronomy Astrophysics Particle Physics

The High Altitude Water Cherenkov gamma-ray observatory HAWC is an array of particle detectors deployed at a high-altitude site in Mexico. It observes very-high-energy gamma rays from the cosmos through measuring their interaction within the atmosphere. Here we give an overview on the detection technique, recent discoveries, and a recently installed high-energy upgrade.


High-precision measurement of the proton mass

2017 Köhler-Langes, Florian; Heiße, Fabian; Rau, Sascha; Sturm, Sven und Blaum, Klaus

Particle Physics

From single molecules to entire planets – all the visible matter surrounding us consists of atoms. In turn all atoms are composed of only three types of particles. Electrons form the atomic shells, protons and neutrons the atomic nuclei. The basis for a better understanding of this atomic structure is the precise knowledge of its properties, such as the masses of the mentioned particles. The world's most accurate measurement of the mass of the proton has now been achieved with an elaborate Penning-trap apparatus [1].


Are neutrinos their own antiparticles?

2016 Schwingenheuer, Bernhard; Heisel, Mark

Particle Physics

Despite intensive research since more than 60 years, it is still unknown, whether neutrinos are their own antiparticles or not. This would have considerable implications for particle physics and cosmology. The neutrinoless double beta decay could provide the key information. The GERDA experiment is searching this hitherto still undetected decay for the germanium isotope 76Ge. Presently, GERDA is world leading with the strongest suppression of background events and the best energy resolution, thus providing excellent conditions for a future discovery of the decay.  

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