Research

To probe the infinitely small and the infinitely large, research at IN2P3 is structured around large-scale instruments such as accelerators or particle detectors, large telescopes or satellites developed and operated in the context of large international collaborations. The Institute's researchers aim to answer three fundamental questions: What are the fundamental constituents of the subatomic world and how do they interact? How is nuclear matter structured? What is the Universe made of and how does it evolve?

A major actor in the research fields of the two infinities

IN2P3 is at the forefront of research in nuclear physics, particle physics, astroparticle physics and cosmology. It is a major player of the main national and international research infrastructures in the field of physics of the two infinities.

IN2P3 carries out experiments in three major scientific fields:

  • particle and hadronic physics which focuses on the most elementary components of matter (quarks, leptons and bosons) and their interactions;
     
  • nuclear physics and astrophysics which study the structure and dynamics of atomic nuclei, thus providing essential elements for astrophysical modelling of star formation and for a wide range of applications;
     
  • astroparticle physics and cosmology which study the physics of Universe using different cosmic messengers (photons, cosmic rays, neutrinos, gravitational waves) to better understand its dynamics and evolution from its origins right up to the present day.

To achieve this, IN2P3 relies on intense technological developments in three key areas:

  • accelerators - instruments which generate and accelerate beams of particles or atomic nuclei and make them collide or propel them into targets;
  • detectors which, according to their nature, are used to identify and characterise the mass, speed, energy and origins of the products generated by collisions or emitted by cosmic phenomena;
  • computing and data science for processing, storing and probing the huge data flows generated by scientific experiments.

IN2P3 also conducts interdisciplinary research projects at the crossroads of these and other scientific disciplines in the fields of energy, environment and health. This work is structured around 5 main areas:

  • innovative nuclear energy production processes and techniques
  • innovative nuclear techniques for health
  • radionuclides in the environment
  • the synthesis of nuclei and organic matter in the Universe
  • new imaging techniques for Earth studies and archaeology

 

Major advances in knowledge and discoveries

Since its foundation in 1971, IN2P3 has been part of the great discoveries in the physics of the two infinities. Among the most recent examples of these are the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012, an essential link of the world of elementary particles, and the first direct detection of gravitational waves in 2016 which heralded the advent of a new form of detection of the most intense phenomena in the universe and a new probe of matter. The Institute's scientists have also contributed to the discovery of the acceleration of the expansion of the Universe which seems to be linked to a new form of energy - dark energy. They also worked on the Planck space mission, observing the cosmic microwave background, a remnant of light produced at the very beginning of the universe, with unprecedented precision. The Institute also plays a key role in the search for dark matter, the effects of which are being measured although the matter itself has yet to be identified. For this work, IN2P3 benefits from using its underground facilities, the Laboratoire Souterrain de Modane, in the Savoie region, along with underground laboratories in other countries. In neutrino physics, IN2P3 has distinguished itself with nuclear reactor experiments, the latest of which, Double Chooz, contributed to the measurement of the last parameter of neutrino oscillations. French researchers have also observed indications of the production of new super-heavy elements using the GANIL accelerator in Caen.

The history of the rise of particle physics in France

A look back at the history of particle and nuclear physics in France, from Pierre and Marie Curie's laboratory in Paris through the European construction of CERN to IN2P3's twenty or so current laboratories. https://in2p3.cnrs.fr/in2p3/fr/cnrsinfo/lessor-de-la-physique-des-particules-en-france

Structured for very large-scale research

Exploring the physics of the two infinities requires concentrated large-scale resources. For this reason, the Institute relies on a limited number of laboratories and specialised research platforms jointly working on large projects. The Institute receives direct support from the Very Large Research Infrastructures (TGIR) programme to fund its major research instruments. These investments are very often beyond the means of a single country and therefore involve setting up international collaboration projects in which financial and human resources, skills and knowledge are shared. The main major infrastructures currently in operation used by the Institute are:

  • The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and its four experiments carried out at CERN - ATLAS, CMS, ALICE and LHCb - for the search of new physics, enhancing the understanding of matter-antimatter asymmetry and the study of dark matter.
  • The EGO-Virgo observatory which is used to improve understanding of gravity by studying the detection of gravitational waves.
  • The Grand Accélérateur National d’Ions Lourds (GANIL) with its cyclotrons and linear accelerator, which allow researchers to explore the limits of atomic nuclei stability and produce exotic states of matter.

In addition, IN2P3 operates a Computing Centre (CC-IN2P3), which currently hosts several thousand servers and 340 petaoctets of storage, working with the Institute’s laboratories and the main physics experiments to collect and process data and make it accessible to researchers.

Below you will find the current list of major instruments in operation or being constructed, which IN2P3 participates in.

Research structured around large scientific instruments

IN2P3's research requires the use of colossal and extremely sophisticated instruments over very long periods of time. Sometimes these require several decades of preparation before measurements can begin. Experiments then last for years or decades. These projects are run in the framework of European or international-level projects.

The main instruments used by IN2P3's scientists are:

 

  • The LHC at CERN in Geneva: This 27-kilometre diameter accelerator and hadron collider is equipped with four giant detectors ALICE, ATLAS, CMS and LHCb. It led to the discovery of the Higgs boson.
  • GANIL in Caen: An accelerator dedicated to the study of atomic nuclei which was commissioned in 1983 and has been undergoing a modernisation process since 2019 with a high-energy superconducting accelerator called SPIRAL2 currently being put into service.
  • EGO-VIRGO in Pisa, Italy: A gravitational wave detector with two 3-kilometre long arms which detect the tiny deformations of space-time generated by the fusion of black holes or neutron stars.
  • the BELLE-2 detector at KEK accelerator in Japan, a combined accelerator and particle detector dedicated to the study of B mesons. These are quark/antiquark pairs which have the potential to reveal new physics.
  • the T2K and SK experiments in Japan studies neutrinos using a particle accelerator to generate neutrinos and two detectors, one of which is close while the second, Super-Kamiokande, is 300 km away.
  • the AEGIS and GBAR detectors at CERN: Experiments on the influence of gravity on antiparticles.
  • the XENON and EDELWEISS detectors: Experiments aimed at detecting dark matter in the form of WIMPs in the underground laboratories at Modane (EDELWEISS) in France and Gran Sasso (XENON) in Italy.
  • the SuperNEMO detector: An experiment to try to observe double-beta decay without neutrino emission that would be synonymous with new physics. It is taking place in the Modane underground laboratory in France.
  • the AUGER detector in Argentina: A 300-km2 observatory dedicated to the observation of ultra-high energy cosmic rays.
  • the HESS telescope in Namibia: A network of antennas for the observation of high-energy gamma rays.

Several large instruments are also under construction or undergoing major upgrades:

 

  • The High Luminosity Large Hadron Collider (HL-LHC) and its detectors: A significant increase is planned in the Large Hadron Collider's (LHC) rate of collisions which means a major upgrade of the detectors will be required by the end of 2027. This will enable scientists to study the characteristics of the Higgs boson in greater detail.
  • Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA): This network of telescopes will observe the sky in the gamma-ray domain as is currently the case at the HESS observatory in Namibia. The plan is for the CTA to be made up of 100 telescopes divided between a northern site on the Canary Islands and a southern site in Chile. Observation work will begin in 2021.
  • Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST): In 2022, LSST will begin periodic complete surveys of the southern sky producing a full image every three days. This means it will scan the sky around 800 times over a ten-year period to thus film the large-scale dynamics of the universe for the first time. Its main fields of study will be dark matter and dark energy.
  • Cubic Kilometre Neutrino Telescope (KM3Net): This underwater neutrino telescope project will be installed at two Mediterranean locations at depths of more than 2000 metres - one near Sicily (ARCA) and the other near Toulon (ORCA). The installation of the first French ORCA lines began in 2017. The telescope will notably study the mass hierarchy of the three families of neutrinos.
  • Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE): The American DUNE project will use a neutrino source and two detectors with one close and the other 1300 km away to study neutrinos in detail. A better understanding of these particles could provide key insights into the asymmetry of matter/antimatter in the universe. It is scheduled to be operational around 2026.
  • Jiangmen Underground Neutrino Observatory (JUNO): currently under construction in Jiangmen (South China) JUNO is a multi-purpose experiment dedicated to the determination of neutrino mass hierarchy and the precise measurement of neutrino oscillation parameters. It is scheduled to start operating in 2021.
  • Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR): FAIR is currently being developed and built at the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt, Germany. The aim of this project is to develop high-energy ion accelerators and antiprotons to study matter. It is expected to start operating in 2025.
  • EUCLID space telescope: Euclid is a European Space Agency (ESA) space telescope scheduled for launch in 2022. Its main objective is the study of dark energy, using two complementary techniques namely the phenomenon of gravitational lensing and the study of the distribution of galaxies in the Universe.
  • LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna): This a European Space Agency (ESA) satellite scheduled for launch in 2032. It will be the first space-based gravitational wave detector.

A strong presence on major national campuses

IN2P3 currently operates twenty-five research laboratories and national platforms mostly in partnership with French universities, engineering schools or research organisations.

Table of research laboratories

Acronym

Name

City/Town

Direction

Code

APC

Astroparticule et cosmologie 

Paris

Antoine Kouchner

UMR7164

CENBG

Centre d'études nucléaires de Bordeaux Gradignan   

Bordeaux - Gradignan

Fabrice Piquemal

UMR5797

CPB

Centre Pierre Binétruy

Berkeley

Radoslaw Stompor

UMI2007

CPPM

Centre de physique des particules de Marseille

Marseille

Cristinel Diaconu

UMR7346

IJCLab

Laboratoire de physique des 2 infinis - Irène Joliot-Curie

Orsay

Achille Stocchi

UMR 9012

IP2I

Institut de physique des 2 infinis 

Lyon

Anne Ealet

UMR5822

IPHC

Institut pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien  

Strasbourg

Rémi Barillon

UMR7178

L2IT

Laboratoire des 2 infinis de Toulouse 

Toulouse

Jan Stark

UMR5033

LAPP

Laboratoire d’Annecy de physique des particules

Annecy

Giovanni Lamanna

UMR5814

LLR

Laboratoire Leprince-Ringuet 

Palaiseau

Yves Sirois

UMR7638

LPC

Laboratoire de physique de Clermont

Clermont-Ferrand

Dominique Pallin

UMR6533

LPCC

Laboratoire de physique corpusculaire de Caen

Caen

Gilles Ban

 UMR6534

LPNHE

Laboratoire de physique nucléaire et de hautes énergies   

Paris

Marco Zito

UMR7585

LPSC

Laboratoire de physique subatomique et de cosmologie  

Grenoble 

Arnaud Lucotte

UMR5821

LUPM

Laboratoire Univers et particules de Montpellier 

Montpellier  

Denis Puy

UMR5299

Subatech

Laboratoire de physique subatomique et des technologies associées   

Nantes

Ginés Martinez

UMR6457

Table of research platforms

EGO

European Gravitational Observatory

Pise

Stavros Katsanevas

 

CCIN2P3

Centre de Calcul IN2P3

Villeurbane

Pierre-Etienne Macchi

USR6402

GANIL

Grand Accélérateur National d’Ions Lourds

Caen

Navin Alahari

UPR3266

LMA

Laboratoire des matériaux avancés

Lyon

Laurent Pinard

 

LNCA

Laboratoire neutrinos Champagne Ardenne

Rancennes

Anatael Cabrera Serra

UMS326

LSM

Laboratoire souterrain de Modane

Modane

Jules Gascon

 

LSPM

Laboratoire sous-marin Provence Méditerranée

Marseille

Paschal Coyle

 

OMEGA

Organisation de microélectronique générale avancée

Palaiseau

Christophe de la Taille

UMS3605

MC

Musée Curie

Paris

Renaud Huynh

UMS6425

Specialised platforms for cutting-edge research

As part of its policies to pool and identify resources nationally, IN2P3 has labelled 'research platforms' in its laboratories, particularly particle accelerators and computing centres. These platforms offer high-level resources (equipment and human resources) for scientists working on cutting-edge research. They are also open to outside teams and thus enable interdisciplinary research to be carried out in the fields of health, energy, the environment, materials and so forth.

Platform

Laboratory

City/Town

Operational manager

Spéciality

AIFIRA

CENBG

Bordeaux

Stéphanie Sorieul

Production of light ion beams (H+, D+, He+) for the chemical analysis, characterisation and irradiation of materials at different scales ranging from millimetres to a hundred nanometres.

ALTO

IJCLab

Orsay

Abdelhakim Said

Production of stable ion beams from proton to aggregates and radioactive ion beams for nuclear physics, astrophysics and multidisciplinary studies.

ANDROMEDE

IJCLab

Orsay

Jean Lesrel

Production of a very wide range of ion beams in terms of mass ranging from protons to gold nanoparticles. These are used to prepare and analyse nano-structured surfaces, modify materials and study biological and astrophysical phenomena.

ARRONAX

 

Nantes

Julien Orsonneau

A multi-particle cyclotron which can provide protons and α-particles for the production of radionuclides for medical imaging and radiotherapy as well as medical, chemical and physical research.

CYRCE

IPHC

Strasbourg

Michel Pellicioli

Production of radioisotopes for nuclear imaging (18F, 64Cu, 89Zr) and labelled molecules for medical diagnosis, monitoring or treatment.

FACe

APC

Paris

Cécile Cavet

François Arago Centre: data computing and storage, access to CC-IN2P3, analysis software, provision of offices.

GENESIS

LPSC

Grenoble

Benjamin Cheymol

Production of 3.1-MeV and 15.2-MeV neutrons for physics or irradiation services.

MUST

LAPP

Annecy

Frédérique Chollet Le Flour

Multidisciplinary computing and data storage centre.

SCALP

IJCLab

Orsay

Cyril Bachelet

Irradiation/implantation of 35 different chemical elements with in-situ analysis of modifications brought about by the use of many techniques.

SCIGNE

IPHC

Strasbourg

Jérôme Pansanel

Scientific data computing and storage services.

SUPRATECH

IJCLab

Orsay

Richard Martret

R&D on superconducting accelerating cavities for future high-energy, high-power particle accelerators.

Virtual Data V

IJCLab

Orsay

Guillaume Philippon

Data storage, grid computing, simulation and massive calculation centres.

Research networks which federate scientific teams

Research Networks (GDR) federate CNRS researchers from different laboratories, disciplines and specialty fields around a common theme at the national level. The purpose of these structures is to develop or study new ideas and research initiatives.