International cutting-edge astrophysics

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Am 11. November 2019 trafen sich Vertreter aus Wissenschaft und Politik zur Grundsteinlegung für den Forschungsbau des Erlangen Centre for Astroparticle Physics (ECAP) der FAU. Im Bild (v.l.): FAU-Kanzler Christian Zens, FAU-Präsident Prof. Dr. Joachim Hornegger, Innenminister Joachim Herrmann, Wissenschaftsminister Bernd Sibler, Erlangens Oberbürgermeister Dr. Florian Janik, Leiter des Staatl. Baumamts Dieter Maußner und ECAP-Direktor Prof. Dr. Stefan Funk nutzen den Grundstein als Erinnerungskapsel an das Jahr 2019. (Bild: FAU/Erich Malter)

A research building for astroparticle physics at FAU

The southern campus at FAU continues to grow: on Monday (11 November), representatives from research and politics met to lay the foundation stone for the research building of the Erlangen Centre for Astroparticle Physics (ECAP). The ECAP Laboratory should be completed by the turn of the year 2021/22. It will provide the perfect location for researchers to continue their prestigious international research on astrophysics.

‘We are very proud that we were able to convince the German Council of Science and Humanities of the high quality of our research into astrophysics at ECAP and secure funds for the ECAP Laboratory. This success once more underlines the strength in research and innovation at FAU,’ explains FAU President Prof. Dr. Joachim Hornegger, who is clearly delighted with the news. ‘The new building will allow researchers at ECAP to continue to make a name for themselves in the international arena and shape the future of astroparticle physics.’

Science minister Bernd Sibler emphasises the importance of the building. ‘Laying the foundation stone for the new research building today marks the start of a venture into new dimensions. Research at ECAP has been literally out of this world for many years now. The Bavarian and federal governments have recognised that money invested in this area is money invested in the future and have decided to invest a total of almost 40 million euros in the project. The ECAP laboratory will increase the appeal of the southern campus of FAU in Erlangen as a magnet for excellent research. The ECAP is outstanding publicity for the metropolitan region of Erlangen and Nuremberg and for Bavaria as a whole as an important location for science and research.’

Workspaces for 150 employees in approximately 3500 square metres

The ECAP research building is being built just a stone’s throw away from the Institutes of the Department of Physics and the Max-Planck Institute for the Science of Light and will have an area of approximately 3500 square metres. 2400 square metres are to be set aside for laboratories, with the remaining 900 square metres being used for offices and conference facilities. The new building will offer workspaces for almost 150 employees. The construction of the building is expected to cost roughly 40 million euros.

ECAP: Cutting-edge astrophysics

ECAP was established in 2007, and enjoys an excellent position as the largest university location for astroparticle physics in the whole of Germany. Physicists at ECAP focus on processes in and structures of extreme phenomena in the universe, at both a small and a large scale. ‘We know, for example, that in the universe particles are accelerated to energies many times the magnitude of energies generated in particle accelerators. However, we still do not entirely understand acceleration mechanisms and the astronomical environment,’ explains Prof. Dr. Stefan Funk, Director of ECAP. Researchers at ECAP also conduct leading world-class research into black holes and their surroundings, dark material, neutrinos and the structure of quantum spacetime.

Neutrinos and super telescopes

ECAP is involved in world-leading instrumentation used to prove the existence of and observe cosmic particles and extreme phenomena such as the Cherenkov Telescope Array which is currently being built on the Spanish island of La Palma and in Chile which are set to catapult astronomy into an entirely new era based on high-energy light (gamma rays).

The fact that ECAP is the only institution in the world to be involved in both large neutrino telescopes KM3NeT in the Mediterranean and the neutrinodetector IceCube at the South Pole is further evidence that ECAP is a leader in its field. Using IceCube, an international team of researchers including scientists from FAU succeeded in proving the existence of the first cosmic neutrinos several years ago. The team is currently working on improving IceCube in order to investigate the signal with an increased degree of precision.

ECAP is not only involved in research ‘under the sea’, it also explores the furthest reaches of our universe. ECAP researchers were involved in the eROSITA X-ray telescope which was recently launched into space on board a German-Russian space observatory (further information available in the press release).

‘Multi-messenger astronomy in which astrophysical phenomena can be observed using various messenger particles, in particle high-energy light – gamma rays – as well as neutrinos and gravitational waves, is currently becoming reality. We are witnessing a scientific revolution and ECAP is at the centre of it,’ explains Prof. Funk.

Thinking outside the box: Transferring physics to practical applications

The activities at ECAP are not restricted to fundamental research into astrophysics. Researchers are also transferring their expertise in building detectors to neighbouring areas such as medical imaging. ‘We are extremely pleased to have been granted funding for the ECAP Laboratory research building, which stands for the perfect combination of excellent fundamental research and practical application. It is a major step towards securing the outstanding role of ECAP in international research today and in the future,’ says Funk.

Further information

Prof. Dr. Stefan Funk
Phone: + 49 9131 8528964