ECAP Laboratory: A new location for cutting-edge research

Aerial view of the ECAP research building
The research building for the Erlangen Center for Astroparticle Physics (ECAP) at FAU Campus Erlangen (South). (Image: FAU/ECAP)

New research building for astroparticle physics inaugurated at FAU Campus Erlangen (South)

Whilst construction works are still underway at other areas in FAU Campus Erlangen (South), the research building for the Erlangen Center for Astroparticle Physics (ECAP) is now completed, and ECAP members have already moved into their new premises. Bavarian science minister Markus Blume and the Bavarian Minister of the Interior Joachim Hermann visited the new home of the astroparticle physicists at FAU on the occasion of the official inauguration ceremony.

A home for research into astroparticle physics

The new building for the Erlangen Center for Astroparticle Physics (ECAP), the ECAP Laboratory, is enough to set researchers’ pulses racing. Directly in the vicinity of the other institutes of the Department of Physics and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, the roughly 150 members of the ECAP can now pursue the greatest and most elusive mysteries of the universe in their new premises covering roughly 3,900 square meters, split over three stories plus a basement. In addition to laboratories, offices and conference rooms, open spaces for encouraging communication and exchange of ideas among scientists have been incorporated into the plans for the new building. In the two-story assembly hall, ECAP researchers can construct and test components for large-scale international experiments. The basement of the new building houses the necessary technology and specialist laboratories.

Together, the Free State of Bavaria and the German federal government have invested approximately 43 million euros in the research building and approximately 3.9 million euros in the equipment it houses. The building, that was eligible for funding pursuant to Section 91 (b) of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, took four years to build.

Pioneering and world-class research into exploring the Universe

Astroparticle physics is a highly topical research area that explores questions, findings and methods from elementary particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology and combines these scientific areas in an interdisciplinary approach. The central aspects of astroparticle physics involve exploring the origin of ultra-high-energy particles in the Universe, the nature and properties of dark matter and questions relating to elementary particle physics that can be answered by measuring particles from the Universe.

ECAP members use cutting edge instrumentation in unusual locations on their quest to answer fundamental questions from these areas. Various instruments across the globe are used to prove the existence of and observe cosmic particles and extreme phenomena, such as the Cherenkov Telescope Array, the latest gamma-ray telescope of the world located in a Chilean mountain range and on La Palma, which will exceed the sensitivity of the best telescopes available to date by a factor of 10. Or the neutrino telescope KM3NeT in the depths of the Mediterranean, which is to be used to identify the astrophysical sources of high-energy cosmic neutrinos and explore the fundamental properties of these ubiquitous but notoriously difficult to grasp elementary particles. Or at the neutrino detector IceCube located in the ice of the South Pole, which recently succeeded in detecting the first indication of neutrino emissions from an active galaxy. IceCube will be developed further in order to be able to measure cosmic neutrinos with an increased degree of sensitivity, broadening our understanding of neutrino astronomy. Members of ECAP even venture out into the further reaches of our Universe with their equipment. ECAP researchers are involved, for example, in providing simulation calculations using the eROSITA X-ray telescope located on board a space observatory. The researchers will also contribute their expertise to other research satellites planned for the future.

That apart, astroparticle physics also benefits other research areas. In the past, for example, technology originally from astroparticle physics has been transferred to areas such as medical imaging or dosimetry.

More information is available on the ECAP website.

Reactions to the inauguration

Prof. Dr. Joachim Hornegger, FAU President: “Research always means reaching for the stars – although usually metaphorically speaking. For the astrophysicists at FAU, it is very close to what they actually do. With the ECAP Laboratory, they now have the ideal conditions to drive their research forward with their passion and innovative spirit, having an impact that reaches across the globe. ECAP is involved in the largest global projects investigating the Universe.”

Markus Blume, Bavarian State Minister for Science and the Arts: “As always: FAU has valuable insights to offer. Astroparticle physics in Erlangen is a fixed star in the international research skyscape – and the ECAP Laboratory is our new epicenter in this research area. Based in Bavaria, researchers are making a major contribution to constructing the largest and most effective telescopes in the world. The fact that the German Council of Science and Humanities proposed this project for funding and that FAU gained the lead over major competition throughout Germany underlines once more that Bavaria is a major location for cutting-edge research. Those of us in Bavaria know that investing in equipment and infrastructure allow our researchers to reach for the stars – literally!

Joachim Herrmann, Bavarian Minister of the Interior for Sport and Integration: “In spite of focusing on tiny astroparticles, ECAP is a major milestone for Erlangen, Middle Franconia and the whole of Bavaria. The new laboratory will offer researchers, students and staff on campus the perfect location to continue their prestigious international research into astroparticle physics.”

Jörg Volleth, mayor of the City of Erlangen: Strongly interdisciplinary cutting-edge research is a special feature of FAU. The pioneering research conducted at ECAP is a good example of this. The new building will provide optimal and modern working conditions at FAU’s Erlangen Campus (South), reinforcing the reputation of our university in the region and beyond.

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Schatz, Dean of the Faculty of Sciences: “People have always been fascinated by the endless reaches of the Universe. The dimensions of time and space that have to be borne in mind when investigating the Universe are simply gigantic and require an excellent scientific infrastructure. Thanks to our new building, ECAP is now ideally equipped for the scientific challenges of today and tomorrow.”

Prof. Dr. Stefan Funk, Director of the Erlangen Center for Astroparticle Physics: “ECAP is not only the largest university location for astroparticle physics in Germany, it is also among those with the best international reputation. With our new ECAP Laboratory we now have the infrastructure and facilities to continue to build this reputation over the long term.”

Prof. Dr. Anna Nelles, professor and member of the ECAP board: “Our human curiosity drives us to find out more and more about the Universe. Particles provide valuable insights, and our new research building, the ECAP Laboratory, will open the door to the secrets they hold.”

Further information

Prof. Dr. Stefan Funk
Director of ECAP
Phone: +49 9131 85 70727