GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research
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GSI main entrance, Darmstadt, Germany
64291 Darmstadt, Germany
The GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research (German: GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH) is a federally and state co-funded heavy ion research center in the Arheilgen suburb of Darmstadt, Germany. It was founded in 1969 as the Society for Heavy Ion Research (German: Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung), abbreviated GSI, to conduct research on and with heavy-ion accelerators. It is the only major research center in the State of Hesse. The current director of GSI is Horst Stöcker who succeeded Walter F. Henning in August 2007.
The laboratory performs basic and applied research in physics and related natural science disciplines. Main fields of study include plasma physics, atomic physics, nuclear structure and reactions research, biophysics and medical research. The lab is a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres.
Shareholders are the German Federal Government (90%) and the State of Hesse (10%). As a member of the Helmholtz Association, the current name was given to the facility on 7 October 2008 in order to bring it sharper national and international awareness.
The chief tool is the heavy ion accelerator facility consisting of UNILAC, the Universal Linear Accelerator (energy of 2 - 11.4 MeV per nucleon), SIS 18, the heavy-ion synchrotron (0.010 - 2 GeV/u) and ESR, the experimental storage ring (0.005 - 0.5 GeV/u) and FRS. The UNILAC was commissioned in 1975, the SIS 18 and the ESR were added in 1990 boosting the ion acceleration from 10% of light speed to 90%.
Another important technology developed at the GSI is the use of heavy ion beams for cancer treatment (from 1997). Instead of using X-ray radiation, carbon ions are used to irradiate the patient. The technique allows tumors which are close to vital organs to be treated, which is not possible with X-rays. This is due to the fact that the Bragg peak of carbon ions is much sharper than the peak of X-ray photons. A facility based on this technology, called Heidelberger Ionenstrahl-Therapiezentrum (HIT), built at the University of Heidelberg Medical Center began treating patients in November 2009.
Other parts of the facility
- Two high-energy lasers, the nhelix (Nanosecond High Energy Laser for Heavy Ion Experiments) and the Phelix (Petawatt High Energy Laser for Heavy Ion Experiments).
- A FRagment Separator (FRS)
- An Experimental Storage Ring (ESR)
In the years to come, GSI will evolve to an international structure named FAIR for Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research. The first beam was expected by 2013, but this is not realistic anymore. Among the improvements, two new synchrotrons (with respective magnetic rigidity 100 and 300 Tm), a Super-FRS and several new rings among which one that can be used for antimatter research.
The creation of FAIR was co-signed on 7 November 2007 by 13 countries: Austria, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Sweden, United Kingdom, Spain and Poland. Representatives included Annette Schavan, the German federal minister of science and Roland Koch, the prime minister of the state of Hesse.