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Research Field Matter


Helmholtz Association Mission Statement

We contribute to solving grand challenges which face society, science and industry by performing top-rate research in strategic programmes in the fi elds of Energy, Earth and Environment, Health, Key Technologies, Structure of Matter, Aeronautics, Space and Transportation.

We research systems of great complexity with our large-scale facilities and scienti c infrastructure, cooperating closely with national and international partners.

We contribute to shaping our future by combining research and technology development with perspectives for innovative applications and provisions for tomorrow's world.



 Scientific Challenges

 The Core Competences of the Research Centres

 Overall Goals of the Research Field Matter

 Programme Structure


Scientific Challenges

A premier mission of the Research Field MATTER is the deepest possible understanding of matter and materials in order to face the grand challenges of our society. The Helmholtz Centres of the Research Field will further expand our molecular knowledge base on the structure and function of matter, which is a prerequisite for the controlled design of tailored materials and drugs for tomorrow.


During the last decades we have implemented a solid experimental, technical and theoretical basis for the next steps towards controlling matter and energy on the quantum level. This will finally revolutionize our understanding of molecular functions and quantum processes and enables us to devise novel materials with tailored functions and to orchestrate chemical and biochemical processes at the interface of physics to chemistry and biology.


We must advance our understanding of the universe at the largest and smallest scales and under extreme nuclear conditions. We venture to find a better understanding of matter that is composed of quarks and gluons, insights into the origin of mass, into the nature of the most energetic cosmic rays and to identify Dark Matter. Hence, our instruments range from astroparticle observatories to high-energy particle and ion accelerators and colliders.


In the coming years the research and development activities of the Helmholtz Centres that collaborate within the Research Field MATTER have to cope with several urgent and vexing problems, which range from our fundamental understanding of matter and the universe to our ability to control matter and materials down to the level of electrons and spins. The major objectives to be addressed by the Research Field MATTER are

  • a better understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe and all matter and antimatter therein,
  • the further exploration of the variety of forms of cosmic and exotic matter in the laboratory, and
  • a better understanding and controlling of the function of materials at the level of atoms and electrons, including the control of the electronic and molecular processes at the real time scale and thus contributing to the design of novel materials and drugs.

These ambitious objectives critically depend on the Research Field’s core competence in the design and operation of accelerator-based “super-microscopes” with highest spatial and temporal resolution, of advanced neutron, ion and high-field facilities and of novel particle, astroparticle and photon detectors as well as on theoretical concepts of the highest sophistication.


The modern research facilities of the Research Field support leading-edge research and its transfer to society ranging from physics, chemistry and biology to materials science and medicine, with applications in energy, environment, key technologies and health. They are high-tech platforms which drive technology, attract scientists from all over the world and offer unique interdisciplinary and scientifically challenging environments for young researchers.


The Core Competences of the Research Centres

Seven Helmholtz Centres contribute to the Research Field MATTER: Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg and Zeuthen, Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ), Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung (GSI) in Darmstadt with its two Helmholtz Institutes (HI) in Mainz and Jena, Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie (HZB), Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht Centre for Materials and Coastal Research (HZG), Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR), as well as Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).


DESY, one of the world's leading accelerator centres, operates PETRA III and the X-ray laser FLASH and hosts the European X-ray Laser XFEL, and is a key partner in international projects, such as the LHC, IceCube and the planned CTA. DESY has a focused research programme in accelerator development, photon science and particle and astroparticle physics. DESY attracts more than 3,000 scientists from over 40 countries annually using the DESY infrastructure.


The research mission of Jülich (FZJ) is to contribute to science and technology world-wide in the Research Fields of ENERGY, CLIMATE, MATTER and KEY TECHNOLOGIES. Within MATTER – building on the experience with COSY - Jülich takes over a leading role in the hadron physics programme, e.g. by constructing, building and using HESR at FAIR. It also pursues its strategic objective to fully utilise and optimise the potential of dedicated neutron scattering instruments at national and international large-scale facilities.


Mission and key competences of GSI are the construction and operation of large ion beam accelerators as well as their exploitation for research into hadron and nuclear physics, atomic and plasma physics, materials research and radio biology. The major focus of GSI during POF III will be the construction and commissioning of the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research FAIR together with national and international partners.


Operating two large research infrastructures, the neutron source BER II and the light source BESSY II, HZB is one of just a few centres worldwide supporting the complementary use of neutrons and photons for research on structure and function of materials, therefore serving more than 3,000 international users per year. HZB combines its expertise in accelerator and instrument development with a strong material and energy research programme and contributes to the
Research Fields MATTER and ENERGY.


In the Research Field MATTER HZDR (Helmholtz member since 2011) focuses on the research on the structure, dynamics and function of matter, physics and material science with ion beams, research and development for new accelerator and detector technologies and leading research with the highest electromagnetic fields. It runs the Ion Beam Centre (IBC), the Dresden High Magnetic Field Laboratory (HLD) and the ELBE accelerator with secondary radiation sources.  HZDR is active also in the Research Fields ENERGY and HEALTH.


The research at HZG covers materials science with an emphasis on advanced engineering materials, materials research with synchrotron radiation and neutrons, biomaterials for regenerative medicine, as well as climate and environmental research focussing on coastal dynamics and its natural and anthropogenic drivers. The HZG is actively involved in the Research Fields KEY TECHNOLOGIES, EARTH AND ENVIRONMENT and MATTER. Within MATTER HZG provides unique research infrastructures for materials research at PETRA III and FRM II.


The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT contributes to the Helmholtz Research Fields KEY TECHNOLOGIES, EARTH AND ENVIRONMENT, ENERGY and MATTER. Within MATTER, KIT concentrates on (i) elementary particle physics including the Tier-1 data centre GridKa, (ii) astroparticle physics with neutrino physics, the search for Dark Matter and cosmic ray research, (iii) the synchrotron radiation facility ANKA, and (iv) advanced detector and accelerator


Overall Goals of the Research Field Matter

The Helmholtz Centres contributing to the Research Field MATTER will continue their efforts to conduct their own research as well as the construction and operation of Helmholtz Large-scale Facilities; these two categories are specified as Leistungskategorie I (LK I) and Leistungskategorie II (LK II), respectively.


The Helmholtz Centres cooperating in MATTER will

  • carry out research to explore the structure and function of matter at the highest finesse and to further develop the necessary research infrastructure in order to maintain a leading international role in this ambitious Research Field,
  • strive for more strategic cooperations with neighbouring scientific disciplines, university groups and with international partner institutes and laboratories, and
  • join forces in the development of accelerator technologies and novel accelerator concepts, advanced detectors and large-scale data management.

The latter effort should establish new Helmholtz technology hubs, which coordinate R&D on a national level and foster new cooperations in Europe and worldwide.


The Research Field MATTER selectively expands its expertise and infrastructure in order to explore new areas in the investigation of matter. The Helmholtz Centre Dresden-Rossendorf recently joined the Research Field contributing novel competences to the exploration of matter under extreme conditions. The two international facilities XFEL and FAIR are under construction. They will offer unprecedented opportunities in the exploration of the structure and function of


In order to tackle the scientific challenges mentioned before, the contributing Helmholtz Centres have decided to work together within a new programme structure, which maximises cross talk between disciplines and fosters interdisciplinary use of the research infrastructure across the Helmholtz Research Fields. The new Research Field MATTER will be organised in three programmes, MATTER AND THE UNIVERSE, FROM MATTER TO MATERIALS AND LIFE and MATTER AND TECHNOLOGIES.