What are the best physics research projects

Space research and physics research - investing in the future

Science is fascinating - but it is also expensive. Space and physics research in particular is associated with extremely high costs. But the bright minds behind it hope to be able to derive a benefit for mankind that cannot be outweighed with money. We present the five most complex and costly projects in the world in a ranking.

1. Inexhaustible source of energy - ITER nuclear fusion reactor

The nuclear fusion reactor International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is a joint project for climate-friendly energy generation by 35 countries, which has been under construction in southern France since 2007. In contrast to a nuclear power plant, it works with nuclear fusion, not with nuclear fission: A mixture of the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium is heated to around 150 million ° C. The hot plasma is enclosed in a magnetic field, the hydrogen isotopes fuse and release an enormous amount of energy. This reaction also takes place in suns and stars. The advantages: The used fuel, deuterium-tritium, is available almost indefinitely on earth, there is no risk of a core meltdown. In addition, there is no radioactive waste that would have to be disposed of. The ITER nuclear fusion reactor could produce hydrogen plasma for the first time in 2025.

Cost: € 20 billion

2. Incomparable accuracy - Galileo navigation system

The Galileo global navigation system is an EU-funded project that provides data for positioning around the world. In contrast to the military-controlled GPS, the Galileo navigation system is in civilian hands and is intended to provide its users with a previously unattainable measurement accuracy of 1 m and below - for special needs such as autonomous driving, logistics or agriculture even to an accuracy of 20 cm. 26 satellites have already been in orbit since summer 2018, and another 4 will be launched into space with a launch vehicle at the end of 2020. With the launch of these last satellites, the Galileo navigation system would be complete and ready for official use.

Cost: € 12 billion

3. Incredible expanses - James Webb Space Telescope

In contrast to its predecessor, the Hubble Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) works with near-infrared and can see much deeper into space and through clouds of dust. The main tasks of the JWST include the search for light from the first stars and the study of the structure and evolution of galaxies. The space telescope is a joint project of NASA, ESA and CSA. The deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope is planned for 2021, about 1.5 million km from Earth at Lagrange point L2 of the Earth-Sun system.

Cost: € 8.26 billion

4. Incredible amounts of data - Square Kilometer Array radio telescope

It owes its name to the total reception area of ​​around 1 km2: The gigantic Square Kilometer Array (SKA) radio telescope will consist of countless radio antennas that search space a thousand times faster than before and deliver extremely high-resolution space images. The planned SKA centers in Australia / New Zealand and South Africa process and combine the incoming signals with a supercomputer due to the huge amount of data. Researchers hope to find answers to fundamental questions about the origin of the universe. However, the realization will take a few years.

Cost: € 1.5 billion

5. Extensive knowledge - Particle Accelerator Fair

The particle accelerator Fair (Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research), which is currently being built in Darmstadt, is also intended to provide new insights into the structure of matter and the development of the universe since the Big Bang. The heart of the facility, which can accelerate all elements from hydrogen to uranium, is a double ring accelerator with a circumference of 1.1 km. According to the schedule, around 80% of the experiments should run in 2022, and the research facility will go into full operation by 2025 at the latest.

Cost: € 1.5 billion

Text: Elisabeth Stockinger
Copyrights (top to bottom): ITER ORGANIZATION, ESA-P. Carril, NASA / MSFC / David Higginbotham, SKA Organization, on42 / FAIR