The GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2019. During the decades, GSI has developed from a national research institute with worldwide collaborations into an international campus. With the international FAIR accelerator center, in which GSI is the German and also the main shareholder, people from all over the world will carry out cutting-edge research for decades to come. We have compiled the highlights of the GSI history until 2019. Join us on a journey through time, click your way through 50 years of GSI, and take a look into the future of FAIR. Have fun browsing!
The intention of GSI's foundation is to establish a central accelerator laboratory for researchers from all over the world and the physics institutes of the universities, and to enable top-level research at a central location. In 1966, Hessian university professors found the Hessian Nuclear Physics Working Group for this purpose. The underlying idea for a particle accelerator also already exists: a linear accelerator for heavy ions up to uranium, whose basic structure had already been devised by Christoph Schmelzer at the end of the 1950s. Among others, Dieter Böhne works on its realisation in Heidelberg (photo: installation of UNILAC 1975).
December 17, 1969
Federal Science Minister Hans Leussink and Hessian Minister President Albert Osswald sign a forward-looking contract in Bonn: the Federal Government and the State of Hesse decide to jointly build and operate a heavy ion accelerator in Darmstadt. A central nuclear physics laboratory is established for this purpose. This is the birth of the "Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung". Previously, the scientific conference for future users had taken place in Heidelberg in July (picture). They discussed the development of instruments and buildings for the future GSI research facility.
A multi-headed committee, the Scientific Directorate, takes the GSI lead. The photo from 1971 shows four of the members of the board of directors — from left to right: Professor Rudolf Bock, Professor Peter Brix, Professor Christoph Schmelzer and the Administrative Director Hans Otto Schuff — in conversation with Building Director Flöter from the regional finance office in Wiesbaden.
The Steinhaus on today's Messeler-Park-Straße, a former industrial enterprise, is purchased. The building and the depot form the first, still very small location of the newly founded GSI. The construction of the accelerator and the research buildings is coordinated and controlled from here.
Christoph Schmelzer is one of the founding fathers of GSI. Born 1908 in Lichtentanne in Saxony, died 2001 in Heidelberg. Schmelzer studies physics in Jena. His doctorate in 1935 is followed by a research stay at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, USA, from 1936 to 1939. From 1939 to 1948 he is an assistant at the Technical Physical Institute of the University of Jena. In 1948 he moves to the University of Heidelberg where he workes on the development of particle accelerators. In the 1950s he starts work at CERN. In 1959 Schmelzer is appointed to the Chair of the Institute of Applied Physics by the University of Heidelberg, before becoming the first Scientific Director of GSI. Under his leadership, UNILAC is planned and built.
Groundbreaking working sessions for future cutting-edge research: Scientists from the participating universities meet at the GSI depot to discuss the future experimental program. Among those present are Prof. Rudolf Bock, Prof. Günter Herrmann, Prof. Walter Greiner, Prof. Christoph Schmelzer and Prof. Peter Armbruster.
The shell construction work for the buildings and halls begins and is progressing well on the major construction site. Equipment halls, experimental and administrative areas are rapidly rising on the foundations.
The planning of the buildings follows a new concept that is intended to strengthen interdisciplinary cooperation: no separate institutes, but a close cooperation between operators and users designed to improve communication. The architect is Peter Steiger who has previously planned CERN.
The construction of the linear accelerator UNILAC begins — a project that will take several years. GSI builds its own electroplating facility during the construction of the accelerator. There, the metal surfaces of the delivered UNILAC components are provided with high-gloss copper plating. The facility is unique because of the size of the elements that can be copper-plated.
The Works Council is founded 1973 and since then actively represents the interests of the employees in various committees (photo of 2019). It takes up suggestions from employees and negotiates them with the management if necessary. Further employee representative bodies like the Equal Opportunities Council, the Disabled Employees Council and the Youth and Trainee Representative follow in later years.
Around GSI, the design of the outdoor facilities begins. Parking spaces and further infrastructure are created for the future GSI research campus.
Most of the shell buildings are standing, now the interior work of the buildings begins. This includes, among other things, the large hall, the floor of which is laid out in hexagonal structures. It is still used today for lectures and various events. In total, the construction period of GSI will be five years. The construction costs amount to about 180 million DM, 80 percent of which are financed by the Federal Government and 20 percent by the State of Hesse.
As early as 1974, even before UNILAC was completed, GSI scientists carry out experiments at external research institutes, such as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the USA. For example, the research group, among them GSI physicist Reinhard Stock (r.) and LBL scientist Arthur Poskanzer (l.), is experimenting with the plastic ball detector (picture of 1978).
The assembly of the UNILAC accelerator makes progress, the linear route is taking on solid form.
The press also follows events on the campus with great interest and reports on the unique facility that is being built at the edge of the Arheilgen forest.
The departments of the Scientific Technical infrastructure fulfill important tasks in the support of research: In the Target Laboratory, which was set-up in the beginning of the 1970s, the targets are produced (l., image from 1997). In accelerator experiments targets are bombarded with ions. The reactions which take place in this process are studied with the help of detectors. They are designed, constructed and tested in the Detector Laboratory (r., mounting of the Helitron drift chamber later used in the FOPI experiment, image from 1993). Finally, the electronics, which convert the signals of the detectors in digital information, are developed in the Experiment Electronics Laboratory.
Many components are custom-made and have to be designed from scratch. Therefore, workshops, mechanical design offices (l., image of 2014) and many other facilities are established on campus that enable the production of innovative instruments since the beginning of GSI.
The main control room (r.) and the control room for the power supply (l.) are completed and start operation. The facility is controlled from the main control room and consist of thousands of individual components such as magnets, vacuum pumps and measuring instruments.
First experiments take place at the 120-metre-long linear accelerator UNILAC. The UNILAC is the basis for many discoveries at GSI.
The experimental hall from above: The ion beam from the particle accelerator can be directed to various experimental stations. In later years, e.g. the chemical elements 107 to 112 will be discovered in this hall.
Element 107 is the first new element to be discovered at GSI. The 120-metre-long GSI linear accelerator is used to accelerate chromium ions — charged chromium atoms — to high speeds of about 30,000 kilometres per second. The chromium ions are directed onto a thin film of bismuth so that the two elements can fuse. The new element is detected with SHIP, a so-called velocity filter (see photo, construction of the SHIP detector, conceptual design by 2. Physikalisches Institut of Justus-Liebig-Universität in Gießen). Element 107 is later named bohrium after Niels Bohr, a Danish physicist, Nobel Prize winner in 1922, and developer of the Bohr atomic model.
More information: Discovery of new elements
A new type of radioactive decay is discovered in GSI experiments. In the so-called proton emission, positively charged nuclear building blocks are ejected from the nucleus. The decay is detected by generating nuclei with a particularly high proton content.
1982 the Summer Student Program takes place for the first time. It is aimed at advanced students from all over the world. Each year, around 35 participants can gain insight into a research group and work on a small project for eight weeks. About a quarter of the participants later return to FAIR and GSI.
More information: Summer Student Program
Glenn Seaborg (r.), who was involved in the discovery of ten elements in the USA, visits Darmstadt in 1982. The Nobel Prize winner, after whom the element seaborgium is named, visits the GSI research facility, here with (from left) Sigurd Hofmann, Gottfried Münzenberg and Peter Armbruster, who play a decisive role in the discovery of the elements at GSI.
August 29, 1982
Element 109 is discovered at GSI using the SHIP detector. It is named after Lise Meitner, an Austrian physicist, who was the first to show a theoretical description of nuclear fission. Meitnerium is produced by a fusion reaction of bismuth and iron. The new element is not stable. It decays quickly and transforms into other lighter elements in several stages by radioactive decay. It emits one alpha particle at a time. Using a sensitive detector system, the researchers can precisely measure these emitted alpha particles and thus unambigously identify the new element. The photo shows an excerpt from the laboratory book of the research team.
More information: Discovery of new elements
Starting in 1983, a research group of GSI scientists conducts experiments at CERN. As part of the collaboration, GSI builds an ion source for CERN (picture), thus making heavy ion research possible there. Even today, GSI participates in heavy ion experiments at CERN at the ALICE detector.
March 14, 1984
Element 108 is discovered at GSI in March 1984. It is named hassium after the Federal State of Hesse, the home state of GSI. The researchers used a fusion reaction of iron and lead to produce it. The photo shows the detector used to identify the element.
More information: Discovery of new elements
April 19, 1985
Expansion plans for GSI: The SIS18 ring accelerator and the ESR storage ring are to be built and connected to the existing linear accelerator. On April 19, 1985, the researchers receive DM 265 million from the Federal Government for the construction, and the State of Hesse adds a further DM 10 million. The Federal Minister for Research and Technology at the time, Heinz Riesenhuber, approves the funds for the expansion of the GSI accelerators.
Components for GSI's ring accelerator, the heavy ion synchrotron SIS18, are assembled. The picture shows a yoke for a dipole magnet (beam deflection) on the left side of the crane rope and the interior of a quadrupole (beam focusing) on the right side on the trestles. Project manager of the SIS18 construction was Klaus Blasche (2nd from right).
In 1986 the bronze stele of the artist Thomas Duttenhoefer is unveiled in the vicarage of the Protestant church in Wixhausen. In addition to references to Wixhausen's history and village life, three of the elements discovered at GSI, elements 107 to 109, are included there. In 1997, two windows are added to the church which were developed by the same artist in cooperation with GSI scientists. They also refer to GSI research: among others the left shows a so-called Bragg curve, the basic concept for the tumor therapy with ion beams. One curve on the right window shows the abundance of elements in the universe.
In the years around 1987, buildings were erected to house the ring accelerator SIS18 with a circumference of approx. 216 metres (outline to be seen in the picture), the experimental storage ring ESR, the fragment separator FRS and the experimental setups.
More information: GSI accelerator facility
Three years before the official launch of the new accelerator combination SIS18/ESR, experimental time is already fully booked with research projects. More than 500 researchers have submitted over 100 proposals.
February 8, 1988
In 1988, "Wissenschaft für Alle" takes place for the first time (picture from 2017). Running more than 30 years, the events sum up to almost 300 lectures and a total of approximately 45,000 visitors. Around 200 guests attend each of the monthly events. The series is aimed at everyone interested in current science and research. The topics cover a wide scientific spectrum — not only about GSI and FAIR, but generally about current activities in physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, computer science. The goal of the series is to present sciences in a way that is understandable for laypersons.
More information: Wissenschaft für Alle (German)
The finished dipole deflection magnets for the SIS18 ring accelerator are inserted into the ring tunnel. With the SIS18, heavy ions will be accelerated up to 90% of the speed of light.
More information: Ring accelerator SIS18
The fragment separator FRS, a sorting machine for atomic nuclei behind the ring accelerator SIS18, is installed in the building (picture of 1989). Operation begins at the beginning of 1990. The FRS contributes to the production and identification of a large number of new isotopes at GSI (see graph).
During the expansion of GSI, the experimental storage ring ESR is built under the supervision of Bernhard Franzke. It has a circumference of 108 meters. Ions previously accelerated in the linear accelerator UNILAC and in the ring accelerator SIS18 can be stored in the ESR at high speeds, i.e. several million circulations per second, and used for experiments. By using the fragment separator FRS, new particles, e.g. new isotopes, can be stored in the ESR and measured with high precision (picture from 1997).
An electron cooler is installed at the ESR (picture from 1990). By cooling of the stored ions, experiments can be carried out with highest precision (see graph).
November 22, 1988
On the occasion of his 80th birthday, the former Scientific Director Professor Christoph Schmelzer (r.) together with his successor Professor Paul Kienle directs the beam of "his" linear accelerator UNILAC into the new ring accelerator SIS18 for the very first time.
October 30, 1989
During commissioning at the SIS18 ring accelerator, for the first time a uranium beam is accelerated to the maximum energy of one gigaelectronvolt per nucleon stated in the specification. The accelerator meets its expectations. The scientific operation can begin soon.
April 23, 1990
The expansion of the GSI facilities consisting of the ring accelerator SIS18, the experimental storage ring ESR and the fragment separator FRS is officially handed over to the scientific community by the then Federal Minister of Education and Research, Heinz Riesenhuber, at a festive event.
New detectors, such as FOPI (4Pi), a detector that covers almost the full solid angle, are being built for high-energy research with the SIS18 particle accelerator, which can bring heavy ions up to 90 % of the speed of light. FOPI's aim is to investigate the hot, dense nuclear matter that is produced for a very short time in a high-energy heavy ion collision. It expands explosively and emits newly produced particles (see graph). FOPI was designed by an international collaboration of 13 institutes.
Search for the phase transition: The experiments at the ALADIN spectrometer aim to measure the phase transition from "liquid" to "gaseous" in nuclear matter (see graph). At temperatures below the critical point nuclear matter undergoes a phase transition similar of that from water to gas.
In summer 1992 the International Nuclear Physics Conference takes place in the Kurhaus in Wiesbaden (l.). GSI hosts the largest conference in this field. On this occasion, Princess Margaret of Hesse and by Rhine invites the speakers and organizers of the conference to a reception in the Wolfsgarten Castle in Langen (r.).
September 7, 1992
Following the official attribution of the discovery of elements 107, 108 and 109 to GSI, a ceremony is held on September 7, during which the discoverers solemnly propose the names of the three new elements: nielsbohrium, meitnerium and hassium. The names are accepted by the responsible committee IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) except for "nielsbohrium", which is changed to "bohrium".
More information: Discovery of new elements
A research team succeeds in observing a new type of radioactive decay: the bound-state beta decay. This is of great importance for our basic understanding of radioactivity and for astrophysical processes, such as nucleosynthesis in the plasma of stars. The team investigates dysprosium-163 at the GSI storage ring ESR. While the neutral dysprosium isotope ist stable, in the fully ionized dysprosium nucleus a neutron can undergo beta-decay into a proton, an electron and and an antineutrino (see graph, which shows the inverse process of an electron capture between lead and thallium). The electron does not leave the atom, but remains bound to it. In case of the dysprosium, the electrons filled the K and L shells of the daughter nucleus Holmium-163.
At the inauguration of Dr. Helmut Zeitträger (m.), who is Administrative Director of GSI from 1993 to 2005, also his predecessor Hans Otto Schuff (l.), who held the office from 1969 to 1992, and Professor Hans Joachim Specht, who is Scientific Director of GSI from 1992 to 1999, attend.
Nuclei can be excited into collective modes, where nuclei as a whole are rotating with very high frequencies or the nuclear matter is oscillating. In the so-called Giant Dipole Resonance the neutrons in a nucleus are oscillating against the protons. Such a Giant Dipole Resonances can be built not only on the nuclear ground state, but on any excited state, consequently also on a Giant Resonance (see graph). Such exotic states are excited in peripheral heavy ion collisions at relativistic energies by Coulomb excitation. They have been first observed by the LAND collaboration measuring the decay of the Double Giant Dipole Resonance DGDR into neutrons and low-energy gamma rays. The TAPS collaboration succeeded to measure the very rare decay of the DGDR by emission of two high-energy photons. The experimental set-up comprises out of four arms of the TAPS array and the FOPI forward wall (see background) for the characterization of the events.
At the summer party, the staff celebrates the great successes achieved in previous years at the SIS18 ring accelerator, at the ESR experimental storage ring and the fragment separator FRS.
November 9, 1994
An international team of researchers led by Professor Sigurd Hofmann discovers the element 110. To produce it, the researchers fuse the two elements nickel and lead. Their atomic nuclei sum up to 110 protons (photo: SHIP detector used to measure darmstadtium). It is named after GSI's location, the city of Darmstadt, which thus is the only German city an element is named after.
More information: Discovery of new elements
Four generations of scientific directors: Professor Christoph Schmelzer (l.) serves from 1971 to 1978, Professor Gisbert zu Putlitz (2nd from left) follows him and remains in office until 1983. From 1984 onwards, Professor Paul Kienle (2nd from right) is in charge of GSI's scientific affairs. From 1992 to 1999 Professor Hans Joachim Specht (r.) takes over the scientific management.
December 8, 1994
An international team of researchers led by Professor Sigurd Hofmann is able to detect element 111 for the first time. They produce it from nickel and bismuth, which together have 111 protons. It is named roentgenium after Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen, first Nobel Prize laureate and discoverer of the x-rays.
More information: Discovery of new elements
February 9, 1996
Element 112 is produced and detected for the first time. GSI scientists produce it by nuclear fusion by accelerating zinc ions onto lead foils. The foils are arranged on a target wheel (see image). It is named Copernicium after Nicolaus Copernicus, astronomer and creator of the heliocentric model.
More information: Discovery of new elements
Following the development of a new cancer therapy with heavy ions, in 1997 for the first time a patient is treated with this method at the GSI accelerator facility. Tumors in the head area can be treated very effectively with ion beams, while at the same time the surrounding healthy tissue is spared. By 2008, approximately 440 patients have been treated on the GSI campus. Since then, patients are treated in dedicated clinical facilities. Today, GSI is researching and developing further applications for heavy ion therapy.
More information: Tumor therapy with heavy ions
To develop the tumor therapy with heavy ions scientists are researching for many years. Since then, the Radiologische Klinik Heidelberg, the DKFZ Heidelberg, and the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf cooperate with the GSI team. Among those involved are Professor Gerhard Kraft, who brings carbon ion therapy to Europe and founds the biophysics department at GSI, Professor Jürgen Debus, today Medical Director of the Department of Radiooncology and Radiotherapy and Scientific Medical Director at the Heidelberg Ion Beam Therapy Centre HIT, as well as Professor Thomas Haberer, now Scientific Technical Director at HIT, and Dr. Hartmut Eickhoff of GSI who is technical project manager at the realization of HIT. Apart from that, Eickhoff is Technical Director of GSI from 2010 to 2012.
More information: Tumor Therapy
View into the extremely heavy magnet of the KaoS experiment (Kaon spectrometer). The American Physical Society ranked the measurements of KaoS 1998 among the ten most outstanding physics results. At KaoS, scientists proved that particles change their mass in dense nuclear matter (see graph) which is crucial for the physics and the understanding of stars.
Heavy ions allow the investigation of hot, dense plasmas. In addition to the findings about matter under extreme conditions, the techniques developed in this context could be of interest for alternative energy generation by means of heavy-ion induced inertial fusion. GSI participates in a multi-year study (see graph) on the topic.
After the foundation of the HADES collaboration in 1994, the detector is built in 1998 and the superconducting magnet is installed by HADES (pictures). The HADES detector (High Acceptance Di-Electron Spectrometer) is used to investigate hot dense nuclear matter in order to, among other things, solve the question of mass. It has not yet been determined why a proton has significantly more mass than its individual components.
More information: HADES experiment
Before and after its flight with the spaceshuttle Discovery, the detector AMS-01 (Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, r.) is tested at GSI. Electronics for its successor AMS-02, which is in permanent use on board the International Space Station ISS (l.) until today, is also calibrated at GSI. The detector was developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology by a group led by Nobel Laureate Samuel Ting to search for antimatter and other particles in cosmic rays.
Even outside the GSI campus, science with heavy ions is presented: Exhibitions take place regularly, e.g. the travelling exhibition "Journey to the Big Bang: Elementary Particle and Nuclear Physics" (picture). It is conceived on the occasion of the Year of Physics (2000), in which GSI plays an important coordinating role. The travelling exhibition "Journey to the Big Bang" is hosted by 77 places within Germany and worldwide, e.g. in South Africa and China, and counts more than 100,000 visitors.
In 2000, an open day takes place at GSI themed "Schauplatz Wissenschaft – Einblick in die Materie". The management before the beginning of the event: Professor Walter Henning (l.), who is Scientific Director of GSI from 1999 to 2007, and Dr. Helmut Zeitträger, who is Administrative Director from 1993 to 2005.
GSI scientists are investigating the chemical properties of the superheavy element hassium. The challenge is that it must first be produced artificially and then only has a very short lifetime. Using a thermochromatographic detector system, the researchers find out that hassium forms a very volatile tetroxide with oxygen and thus behaves like a typical element of the 8th main group.
At the GSI fragment separator (picture), scientists discover a new type of radioactive decay while studying the iron-45 atomic nucleus: the two-proton decay, in which two protons are emitted from the nucleus simultaneously. Theoretical physicists had predicted this type of decay. The findings are published in May 2002.
Since 2003, GSI and later also FAIR participate in the nationwide "Girls'Day" initiative, a day of action designed to motivate girls and women to take up technical and scientific careers. The activity enables around 45 girls each year to gain an insight into the research work and the technical professions on campus and thus inspire them about science (picture from 2018).
The RISING collaboration (Rare Isotopes Spectroscopic INvestigation at GSI) enables investigation of a broad range of phenomena with high-resolution in-beam gamma spectroscopy with radioactive beams. Among other things, RISING measures tin-100, the heaviest doubly-magic atomic nucleus with the same number of protons and neutrons. In tin-100, the fastest beta-plus decay of all isotopes studied worldwide to date is detected (see graph). The experimental results represent a milestone in the understanding of exotic nuclei.
For some time, also the Advanced GAmma Tracking Array (AGATA, photo), a European gamma-ray spectrometer used for nuclear structure studies, is in operation in one of GSI's experimental sites.
The GSI photo exhibition "Focus on Research" with pictures by Achim Zschau (m.) can be seen in the White Tower in downtown Darmstadt. For 30 years, the photographer has been documenting instruments used by science to study matter. The photographs show a wide-ranging spectrum from the construction of the facilities to individual components and detectors as high as houses. In previous years, his photographs were shown in other exhibitions at the Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt and at the Justus-Liebig-Haus in Darmstadt.
February 5, 2003
After the German Council of Science and Humanities had spoken out in favour of the construction of the new FAIR accelerator facility in November 2002, the promise of financing arrives from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The prerequisite is the participation of international partners in the project.
More information: FAIR
Dezember 2, 2003
GSI officially names the chemical element 110 darmstadtium with the chemical symbol Ds in honor of the city of Darmstadt. This makes Darmstadt the first and only German city having a chemical element named after it. The godparents are the then Federal Minister of Education and Research, Edelgard Bulmahn, and the then Lord Mayor of Darmstadt, Peter Benz. High school students of the Georg Büchner School show a performance entitled "The Birth of Chemical Elements".
More information: Discovery of the elements
September 27, 2004
The GSI school laboratory is officially opened by Karin Wolff, then Hessian State Minister of Education. In the middle of the research facility GSI sets up a laboratory for students. The experimental room offers carefully coordinated experimental setups on the topics of radioactivity and radiation. Based on the curriculum for schools in Hesse, the experiments introduce students to modern experimental methods in nuclear and particle physics.
The TASCA detector is put into operation in 2006. TASCA (TransActinide Separator and Chemistry Apparatus) is a gas-filled separator that can separate elements that were previously newly generated using the particle accelerator. The elements are stopped at the end of the separator in a silicon semiconductor detector and identified by measuring their alpha radiation. Additional detectors can also be used at TASCA to investigate the chemical properties of new elements. Among others, measurements on the elements 114, 115 and 117 are conducted at TASCA in the coming years.
More Information: TASCA
November 17, 2006
Element 111, produced at GSI, is given the name roentgenium with the chemical symbol Rg. The name honors Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, who discovered the x-rays and is the first Nobel Prize winner in physics. Annette Schavan, then Federal Minister of Education and Research, is the godmother.
More information: Discovery of new elements
November 7, 2007
By signing a joint communiqué, the representatives of the partner countries declare their intention to construct the FAIR international accelerator center. On the German side, Annette Schavan, then Federal Minister of Education and Research, and Roland Koch, the Hessian Prime Minister at the time, sign the agreement.
More information: FAIR
The ExtreMe Matter Institute (EMMI) is founded as part of the Helmholtz Alliance Initiative. More than 400 scientists (including students) conduct research within the framework of EMMI at the 13 partner institutions to investigate matter under extreme conditions. Since 2015, EMMI has been a division of GSI. During the EMMI Physics Days 2010, physics Nobel Laureate Wolfgang Ketterle visited GSI (l.).
Oktober 7, 2008
"Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung mbH" becomes "GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH". The new name identifies GSI as a member of the Helmholtz Association.
GSI and the Universities of Darmstadt, Frankfurt, Giessen, Heidelberg and Mainz as well as the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies FIAS sign an agreement on strategic cooperation in science and research. Within this framework, they want to jointly bundle and coordinate the research and development for the future international FAIR accelerator center (in the photo in front, 2nd from right: Professor Horst Stöcker, Scientific Director of GSI from 2007 to 2015, and 2nd from left: Christiane Neumann, Administrative Director of GSI from 2008 to 2010, with representatives of universities and FIAS).
GSI starts operation of the new high-power laser PHELIX. Scientists at GSI now have the unique opportunity to combine high-energy and high-intensity laser beams with ion beams, which are produced in the existing accelerator facility, in experiments. Thus, matter can be studied under extreme conditions, as they occur in stars or in the interior of large planets, such as Jupiter. Also new methods of ion acceleration via laser irradiation are investigated (see graph).
In March 2009, the newly established M branch for materials research is inaugurated. Three beam stations enable the world's first online investigation of how the physical properties of materials change under the impact of high-energy ions. For example, the radiation hardness of functional materials for the FAIR accelerator facility and of electronic satellite components is tested. Another very successful research activity is based on ion track nanotechnology. The production of tailor-made nano-channels and nanowires is of interest for numerous interdisciplinary areas. As early as the 1990s, application-oriented research, which is carried out in the various GSI departments, is combined in a new area, the materials research department. The first head of materials research is Norbert Angert, who was also head of the accelerator division.
More Information: Materials Research
The first issue of the science magazine "target" (r.) is published. It informs in an understandable way about research at GSI and FAIR and can be subscribed to free of charge. To date, 17 issues have been published. Previously, since the start of experimental operations at the UNILAC accelerator in the mid-1970s, the GSI-Nachrichten (l.) had informed staff, external users and the interested general public about current developments in the research program.
The Helmholtz Institute Mainz, the first Helmholtz Institute ever, and the Helmholtz Institute Jena are founded. They are branches and subsidiaries of GSI. In Mainz, GSI and the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) cooperate in the research of structure, symmetry and stability of matter and antimatter. In 2017, the new research building is inaugurated (l.), which houses the working groups of the Helmholtz Institute Mainz. The Helmholtz Institute Jena is located on the campus of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena. The institute focuses on fundamental and applied research using high-power lasers and particle accelerators (r.).
November 2, 2009
At the Heidelberg Ion Beam Therapy Centre HIT, patients are treated in routine clinical operations with the new cancer therapy developed at GSI. GSI designs a tailor-made accelerator for this purpose, which is built at HIT and used for ion beam therapy. The investment of 119 million euros are borne equally by the University Hospital of Heidelberg and the German government. Another ion beam therapy center opens in Marburg in 2015.
More information: Tumor therapy with heavy ions
July 12, 2010
The chemical element 112 discovered at GSI receives its name copernicium. The symbolic baptism marks the celebration of the entry in the periodic table, which is valid for all times. Copernicium is 277 times heavier than hydrogen and at the time the heaviest officially recognized chemical element in the periodic table. The astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) is honoured with the name of the element. The godfather is the Hessian Prime Minister Roland Koch.
More information: Discovery of new elements
October 4, 2010
At Schloss Biebrich in Wiesbaden, representatives from nine countries sign the international agreement on the construction of the accelerator centre FAIR (Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research), which will be built at GSI in Darmstadt, and establish the FAIR GmbH for this purpose. The event is hosted by the Federal State of Hesse with Prime Minister Volker Bouffier (6th from right). The FAIR shareholders come from Finland, France, Germany, India, Poland, Rumania, Russia, Slovenia and Sweden. The GSI GmbH ist the German shareholder and also main shareholder of the international FAIR GmbH.
November 8, 2010
The LHC accelerator at the European Research Centre CERN accelerates lead ions to record energies for the first time. The ALICE detector, specially designed to study reactions between heavy ions at high energies, measures the first lead collisions. GSI contributed significantly to the construction of two important ALICE detectors and is jointly responsible for their operation: the time projection chamber and the transition radiation detector. GSI is also involved in the global network (grid) for the analysis of the experiment data as well as in the analysis itself.
March 9, 2011
A special challenge awaits 30 high-school students. They work with real experiment data recorded by the ALICE experiment at CERN's Large Hadron Collider in Geneva. Since then, FAIR and GSI hold annual events as part of the International Masterclasses, where young people can be a scientists for a day. The picture was taken in 2014.
In 2012, the Scientific-Technical Council (WTR) takes over the task of advising the management on all strategic scientific and technical issues. In addition, the WTR has a seat in the GSI Supervisory Board. The WTR members are the heads of the scientific and technical departments, the scientific pillars and the Helmholtz Institutes, as well as elected representatives of the scientific and technical staff. The WTR follows its predecessor, the Wissenschaftlicher Ausschuss (Scientific Committee), which had previously performed this task for many years.
GSI researcher Professor Hans Geissel (r.) sets a new world record: He is at the top of the world rankings with 272 discovered atomic nuclei. With 59 newly produced nuclei, he replaces his colleague Professor Gottfried Münzenberg (l.). Münzenberg, who was also a researcher at GSI before his retirement in 2005, held the world record with 219 atomic nuclei so far. In the world ranking of discovery laboratories, GSI ranks second with 435 atomic nuclei. The central device for the discovery of atomic nuclei is the fragment separator at GSI (picture). The ranking is published by the researcher Professor Michael Thoennessen (m.) from Michigan State University in the USA.
The CRYRING is an ion storage ring for FAIR. In 2013 it is delivered to Darmstadt as a Swedish in-kind contribution for FAIR. It is modernized, adapted to the FAIR standard and connected to the ESR under the project name "CRYRING@ESR". The experimental program which is pursued at the CRYRING ranges from atomic to nuclear physics and materials research.
A highlight of the HADES experiment shooting gold ions with the particle accelerator onto a gold target is the measurement of virtual photons. They carry information directly from the hot and dense collision zone of the ions and are measured for the first time for baryon-rich QCD matter. Baryon-rich matter is found in compact astrophysical objects such as neutron stars and plays an important role in the dynamics of neutron star mergers.
The new GSI supercomputer "L-CSC" (l.) wins the unofficial world championship title in the worldwide comparison of the most energy-saving high-performance computers "Green500". With one watt of electrical power, the L-CSC achieves a computing power of 5.27 billion computing operations per second. Shortly after, the building for the new high-performance data center "Green IT Cube" at GSI and FAIR is completed and opened in a festive ceremony. It is one of the world's most powerful scientific computing centers. Thanks to a special cooling system, it is particularly energy- and cost-efficient. The Green IT Cube provides enormous computing capacities for experiments at the accelerator facilities of GSI and, in the future, of FAIR. The data analysis carried out by GSI for the CERN experiment ALICE also takes place here.
Whether guest professorships, lecture series or keynote speeches — the researchers of GSI and FAIR receive numerous awards and recognitions from universities and research associations for their outstanding scientific achievements and groundbreaking research work. In the photo Bum-Hoon Lee (l.), President of the Asian Pacific Center for Theoretical Physics (APCTP) in Korea, at the award ceremony of the Benjamin Lee Professorship to Karlheinz Langanke, who is Scientific Director of GSI from 2015 to 2016 (ad interim) and Research Director of GSI and FAIR.
The beam transport from the experimental storage ring ESR of GSI to the first FAIR storage ring CRYRING is tested successfully. An important step that marks the beginning of CRYRING commissioning by integrating both rings in one facility.
March 3, 2017
The new Scientific Managing Director of GSI and FAIR, Paolo Giubellino (2nd from right), is officially inaugurated. Together with Ursula Weyrich, Administrative Managing Director since 2014, and Jörg Blaurock (l.), Technical Managing Director since 2016, the first joint management board of GSI and FAIR is complete. The inauguration is attended by State Secretary Georg Schütte (2nd from left), Chairman of the Supervisory Board of GSI and the FAIR Council, and Helmholtz President Otmar Wiestler (r.).
May 7, 2017
Investigation and discovery at the Open House at GSI and the future FAIR accelerator center. Almost 11,000 visitors come to the campus in Darmstadt to visit research facilities, laboratories and experimental facilities. GSI and FAIR open their doors to the guests for eight hours. Thousands of curious people, including many families, use this event to take a look behind the scenes of one of the leading accelerator facilities for basic physics research. The Open House is the biggest event in the history of GSI and FAIR.
July 4, 2017
On July 4, 2017, the groundbreaking ceremony for the large SIS100 ring accelerator, the heart of the future FAIR accelerator facility, takes place on the construction site northeast of GSI. At the ceremony, national and international representatives from politics and science deliver greetings and symbolically pick up the spade. Representatives of all nine partner countries are present at this decisive milestone.
The test facility for the superconducting magnets of the FAIR ring accelerator SIS100 goes into operation. This is where dipole magnets and other magnets are tested that keep the particles at FAIR on their orbits. The superconducting magnets are first cooled down to -269°C and then tested for their magnetic properties before being thawed again. A total of 110 dipole magnets will be used in the SIS100 ring accelerator.
Gravitational waves from merging neutron stars (upper chart) are detected for the first time. In combination with electromagnetic waves of the same merger (chart below), central predictions of GSI scientists on the formation of heavy elements such as gold and platinum in the universe are confirmed. It is estimated that the event produced ten times the Earth's mass of gold and uranium.
From the very beginning, GSI establishes scientific relations with various countries. The cooperation with Russia starts already in the 60s, a Chinese delegation visits GSI for the first time in 1977. In 2018, GSI and FAIR cooperate with more than 400 institutes from more than 50 countries. The institutes are marked on the world map as orange dots, the countries of the FAIR shareholders are coloured orange.
Learning more about the effects of cosmic rays on humans, electronics and materials is crucial for the future of human spaceflight as well as robotic exploration programs (photo of 2012). The European Space Agency ESA and FAIR will work closely together on more detailed research and therefore sign a cooperation agreement on the campus of FAIR and GSI.
The first tunnel segment of the central ring accelerator SIS100 is completed as a building shell. The roughly 25-meter-long shell section with the accelerator and supply tunnels, which run next to each other, is the first part of the accelerator tunnel, which will have a total circumference of 1.1 kilometers.
At numerous points on the FAIR construction site the steady advance in the realization of the international project can be seen. The drone videos recorded at regular intervals show the progress. In addition to the first tunnel segments of the accelerator ring with 1,100 meter circumference, the concrete casting work for the remaining tunnel is already underway. Work also makes headway at the transfer building, another key building for FAIR, which will house the central hub for the highly complex beamlines. Important constructional milestones are also set for FAIR's experimental sites, such as the excavation pit for the CBM experiment, which already takes shape.
GSI looks back on 50 years of cutting-edge research — with the construction of FAIR we have a promising future ahead of us. Scientists from all over the world will use FAIR to explore the universe in the laboratory. In large planets, stars and star explosions, matter is subject to extreme conditions, such as extremely high temperatures, pressures and densities. At the FAIR facility, 3,000 scientists can create exactly these conditions in the laboratory. To do this, they shoot particles onto small material samples. At the tiny impact point, for a brief moment cosmic matter is created in the laboratory and thus accessible for research.
(Status of the timeline: 17 December 2019)