Research Areas - Overview
Research at our institute spans the whole range of fundamental physics, from particle physics, string theory, and cosmology, to complex systems in condensed matter, cold atomic gases, and biophysics. We focus on the topics "Genesis of the Universe", "Fundamental particles and interactions" and "Complex systems".
Strong connections and interdependencies exist between our topical groups because we all try to understand physical phenomena from fundamental laws, and because we develop and use theoretical methods and techniques that are very widely applicable. Examples are the renormalization group, which applies to the entire range of phenomena mentioned above, and monte-carlo simulations, which have become essential in the analysis both of quantum systems and of classical polymer systems.
Cosmology is one of our major research directions, explored in several research groups and in the transregional research center "The Dark Universe". The investigation of dark matter and dark energy, which has important connections to particle physics, will remain a strong focus in the coming years. Other fundamental issues include cosmological inflation as the origin of what is widely known as the big bang, as well as various cosmological phase transitions. An example is the formation of the simplest nuclei a few microseconds after the big bang from a plasma of quarks and gluons, a state of matter that will be investigated in forthcoming heavy-ion experiments at the CERN LHC.
Likewise, our Institute is a stronghold of particle physics research. This research direction deals with our understanding of Nature at the most microscopic level presently accessible to mankind. Many topics, such as the spontaneous breaking of symmetry by the Higgs mechanism, supersymmetry, extra dimensions, and dark matter candidates, have direct implications for the LHC proton-proton experiments and the origin of the Universe. Closely related, our theoretical concepts range from string theory as a unifying framework for gravity and particle interactions to the analysis of quantum fields, both in perturbation theory and non-perturbatively, e.g. by flow equations.
Another strong focus at the ITP is the physics of complex systems, in particular complex quantum systems, systems from materials science and biological systems, which continue to pose challenges to theory. Quantum systems relevant for high-temperature superconductivity and for nanoscale devices are investigated both in and out of equilibrium, with tools that range from mathematically exact approaches to simulations.
Despite the bewildering complexity of the molecular networks underlying biological systems, it is becoming increasingly clear, that a quantitative understanding of these systems is both required and possible. Many important aspects of biological systems are determined by clear physical principles and thus are investigated at the ITP with methods and concepts from theoretical physics. Because evolution has used all aspects of physics, including those we are not yet aware of, research in biological physics also helps to define new frontiers in more traditional areas of physics, including theoretical advances in non-equilibrium physics.