VI. Nuclear Physics (NP)
The mission of the Nuclear Physics (NP) program is to discover, explore, and understand all forms of nuclear matter. The fundamental particles that compose nuclear matter—quarks and gluons—are relatively well understood, but exactly how they fit together and interact to create different types of matter in the universe is still largely not understood. To solve this mystery, the NP program supports experimental and theoretical research—along with the development and operation of particle accelerators and advanced technologies—to create, detect, and describe the different forms and complexities of nuclear matter that can exist in the universe, including those that are no longer found naturally in our universe. The NP program also produces stable and radioactive isotopes that are critical for the nation.
To carry out this research, nuclear physics focuses on three broad yet tightly interrelated areas of inquiry. These areas are described in The Frontiers of Nuclear Science (http://science.energy.gov/np/nsac/), a long range plan for nuclear science released in 2007 by the Nuclear Science Advisory Committee (NSAC). The three frontiers are: Quantum Chromodynamics, Nuclei and Nuclear Astrophysics, and Fundamental Symmetries and Neutrinos.
Program Website: http://science.energy.gov/np
To address these frontiers, specific questions are addressed by the research activities of each subprogram supported by the Office of Nuclear Physics:
The Medium Energy subprogram focuses primarily on questions having to do with Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD) and the behavior of quarks inside protons and neutrons. Specific questions that are being addressed include: What is the internal landscape of the nucleons? What does QCD predict for the properties of strongly interacting matter? What governs the transition of quarks and gluons into pions and nucleons? What is the role of gluons and gluon self- interactions in nucleons and nuclei? One major goal, for example, is to achieve an experimental description of the substructure of the proton and the neutron. The subprogram supports investigations into a few aspects of the second frontier, Nuclei and Nuclear Astrophysics, such as the question: What is the nature of the nuclear force that binds protons and neutrons into stable nuclei? The subprogram also examines aspects of the third area, Fundamental Symmetries and Nuclei, including the questions: Why is there now more visible matter than antimatter in the universe? What are the unseen forces that were present at the dawn of the universe, but disappeared from view as it evolved? In pursuing these goals the Medium Energy subprogram supports different experimental approaches primarily at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility and the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider.
The Heavy Ion subprogram supports experimental research that investigates the frontier of Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD) by attempting to recreate and characterize new and predicted forms of matter and other new phenomena that might occur in extremely hot, dense nuclear matter and which have not existed since the Big Bang. This subprogram addresses what happens when nucleons "melt." QCD predicts that nuclear matter can change its state in somewhat the same way that ordinary matter can change from solid to liquid to gas. The fundamental questions addressed include: What are the phases of strongly interacting matter, and what roles do they play in the cosmos? What governs the transition of quarks and gluons into pions and nucleons? What determines the key features of QCD, and what is their relation to the nature of gravity and spacetime? Experimental research is carried out primarily using the U.S. Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) facility and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).
The Low Energy subprogram aims primarily at answering the overarching questions associated with the second frontier identified by NSAC- Nuclei and Nuclear Astrophysics. These questions include: What is the nature of the nucleonic matter? What is the origin of simple patterns in complex nuclei? What is the nature of neutron stars and dense nuclear matter? What is the origin of the elements in the cosmos? What are the nuclear reactions that drive stars and stellar explosions? Major goals of this subprogram are to develop a comprehensive description of nuclei across the entire nuclear chart, to utilize rare isotope beams to reveal new nuclear phenomena and structures unlike those that are derived from studies using stable nuclei, and to measure the cross sections of nuclear reactions that power stars and spectacular stellar explosions and are responsible for the synthesis of the elements. The subprogram also investigates aspects of the third frontier of Fundamental Symmetries and Neutrinos. Questions addressed in this frontier include: What is the nature of the neutrinos, what are their masses, and how have they shaped the evolution of the universe? Why is there now more visible matter than antimatter in the universe? What are the unseen forces that were present at the dawn of the universe but disappeared from view as the universe evolved? The subprogram seeks to measure, or set a limit on, the neutrino mass and to determine if the neutrino is its own antiparticle. Experiments with cold also investigate the dominance of matter over antimatter in the universe to answer compelling questions in nuclear and particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology.
The Nuclear Theory subprogram supports theoretical research at universities and DOE national laboratories with the goal of improving our fundamental understanding of nuclear physics, interpreting the results of experiments, and identifying and exploring important new areas of research. This subprogram addresses all three of the field's scientific frontiers described in NSAC's long range plan, which are Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD), Nuclei and Nuclear Astrophysics, and Fundamental Symmetries and Neutrinos, and the associated specific questions listed for the experimental subprograms above.
Theoretical research on QCD (the fundamental theory of quarks and gluons) addresses how the properties of the nuclei, hadrons, and nuclear matter observed experimentally arise from this theory, how the phenomena of quark confinement arises, and what phases of nuclear matter occur at high densities and temperatures. In Nuclei and Nuclear Astrophysics, theorists investigate a broad range of topics, including calculations of the properties of stable and unstable nuclear species, the limits of nuclear stability, the various types of nuclear transitions and decays, how nuclei arise from the forces between nucleons, and how nuclei are formed in cataclysmic astronomical events such as supernovae. In Fundamental Symmetries and Neutrinos, nucleons and nuclei are used to test the Standard Model, which describes the interactions of elementary particles at the most fundamental level. Theoretical research in this area is concerned with determining how various aspects of the Standard Model can be explored through nuclear physics experiments, including the interactions of neutrinos, unusual nuclear transitions, rare decays, and high-precision studies of cold neutrons.
The mission of the Nuclear Data program is to continually validate, refine, and maintain a set of publicly accessible online databases that contain a broad spectrum of nuclear physics data. The archives supported by the Nuclear Data program are of interest for academic research, for, applied and basic research at national laboratories, and to industries involved in nuclear applications such as nuclear energy and medical isotopes. This information includes the properties of both stable and unstable nuclei, experimental results and theoretical predictions for nuclear reactions and nuclear cross sections, and an extensive set of relevant publications on nuclear physics and specialized databases.
The Nuclear Theory Computing program provides computer time and funding support to nuclear scientists whose research has major computational requirements. Thrusts supported by this program include projects jointly supported by the Nuclear Physics and Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) Offices under the Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computation (SciDAC) initiative and the National Energy Research Super Computer (NERSC) allocation program. SciDAC provides support, in partnership with other DOE Offices, for resource intensive computational science topics; NERSC provides allocations of supercomputer time and storage to NP and other researchers. The research supported through Nuclear Theory Computing covers a wide range of computational nuclear physics topics. Recent examples include predictions based on the fundamental theory of quark and gluon interactions, “Quantum Chromodynamics” (QCD) calculated on a space-time lattice; predictions of the properties of nuclei using Density Functional Theory formalism; studies of problems in nuclear astrophysics, including simulations of core collapse supernovae and the birth of the heavy elements; computer studies of novel particle accelerators; and the development of networking software for experimental data applications.
The Nuclear Physics program supports a broad range of activities aimed at research and development related to the science, engineering, and technology of heavy-ion, electron, and proton accelerators and associated systems. Areas of interest include the R&D technologies of the Brookhaven National Laboratory's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), with heavy ion and polarized proton beam; the development of an electron-ion collider (EIC); linear accelerators such as the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (TJNAF); and development of devices and/or methods that would be useful in the generation of intense rare isotope beams for the next generation rare isotope beam accelerator facility (FRIB). Areas of interest also include accelerator R&D technologies in support of next generation Nuclear Physics accelerator facilities.
The Isotope Development and Production for Research and Applications subprogram supports the production and development of production techniques of radioactive and stable isotopes that are in short supply. The program provides facilities and capabilities for the production of research and commercial stable and radioactive isotopes, scientific and technical staff associated with general isotope research and production, and a supply of critical isotopes to address the needs of the Nation. Isotopes are made available by using the Department's unique facilities, the Brookhaven Linear Isotope Producer (BLIP) at BNL and the Isotope Production Facility (IPF) at LANL, of which the subprogram has stewardship responsibilities. The Program also coordinates and supports isotope production at a suite of university, national laboratory, and commercial accelerator and reactor facilities throughout the Nation to promote a reliable supply of domestic isotopes. Topics of interest include research that is focused on the development of advanced, cost-effective and efficient technologies for producing, processing, recycling and distributing isotopes in short supply. This includes innovative approaches to model and predict behavior and yields of targets undergoing irradiation in order to minimize target failures during routine isotope production.
EXCLUSIONS: The NP program does not support investigations in nuclear reactors studies or nuclear reactor modeling.