The 2017 detection of gravitational waves, with the accompanying electromagnetic emission, from merging neutron stars have revealed that we are at a pivotal point in our understanding of matter and gravity. The Cluster Project ELEMENTS will bring together world-leading scientists from distinct fields of research – the physics of particles and nuclei, the gravitational physics of merging neutron stars, the nucleosynthesis of heavy elements – to address the question of the origin of the heavy chemical elements in our Universe. ELEMENTS capitalizes on a solid basis of already existing research structures: the CRC- TR 211 investigating strong-interaction matter under extreme conditions using first-principle methods such as lattice Quantum Chromodynamics, the CRC 1245 advancing ab-initio calculations of nuclei and nuclear matter and their application to astrophysical environments, the RTG 2128 promoting research training in particle-accelerator science, the LOEWE project “Nuclear Photonics” studying photonuclear reactions, and the Helmholtz Research Academy for FAIR (HFHF) providing academic support for the FAIR project. From these coordinated programs, ELEMENTS recruits an excellent and diverse group of Principal Investigators, decorated with outstanding scientific prizes and awards, such as nine ERC grants and the only Humboldt professorship in Hesse. Experimentally, the research program benefits from the world-wide unique particle-accelerator infrastructure in the Darmstadt-Frankfurt area, including GSI and the international FAIR accelerator complex becoming operational in 2025 and the superconducting electron accelerator S-DALINAC at Darmstadt. On the theory side, highly advanced High-Performance Computing resources are provided by the Goethe-CSC and the Lichtenberg-II computer clusters.
ELEMENTS will foster the coherence of the research programs in the State of Hesse in accelerator science, atomic physics, nuclear physics, astrophysics, and gravitational physics. It will also act vigorously to reduce the present gender disparity, increase the diversity at all levels, and promote the career development of its youngest members. High-potential junior group leaders will be targeted to boost the career of the next generation of leaders in the field, while senior and highly visible scientists will be attracted to provide extra momentum in existing, as well as open new venues in neighboring, research areas.
ELEMENTS merges and advances two previously competing proposals for Clusters of Excellence, taking into account the ground-breaking scientific advances since 2017. With the combined expertise of the PIs, the excellent infrastructure supporting them, and the new measures foreseen in this Cluster Project, ELEMENTS will build the fundaments for the strongest possible application for a German Cluster of Excellence in 2025 in this fascinating and timely field of science.