Reaching for the stars – with success

Darmstadt physicist Almudena Arcones receives € 1.5 million grant from the EU


Almudena Arcones, since 2012 junior physics professor at the TU Darmstadt and head of a junior group together with the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, is to receive a € 1.5 million grant from the European Research Council for the next five years.

Junior physics professor Almudena Arcones. Image: Gabriele Otto / GSI

The “European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant” will enable her to compile a team that will carry out new calculations on the creation of the elements in stars. In the competitive selection process, Arcones was one of a group of 300 entrants who were filtered out from the original total of just under 3000.

Almudena Arcones, who researches and lectures in “Supernovae: cores and material under extreme conditions” at the TU Darmstadt, wants her team to decode the creation of the heaviest elements such as gold and platinum in the universe.

Heavy elements like the ones we find on Earth today occur, for instance, in stellar explosions, known as supernovae, or when neutron stars collide. Under these extreme conditions, heavy elements can be created by core reaction paths. Thousands of unstable, largely unknown isotopes occur as intermediate elements.

Detailed simulation of astrophysical conditions and reaction processes

The physicist and her team want to simulate astrophysical conditions and the reaction processes in detail in order to understand why the individual elements occur precisely in the observed quantities. The future FAIR acceleration system will allow them to examine the physics of the heavy cores experimentally.

“Our junior professor Almudena Arcones is now among the group of scientists at the TU whose excellent achievements have been acknowledged by the ERC,” emphasises TU President Hans Jürgen Prömel.

“Her simulations of element synthesis are helping to advance our research, and strengthen the collaboration between the GSI and the TU Darmstadt. The theoretical work will also be of tremendous benefit in advancing our experimental research at the GSI and at the future acceleration centre FAIR,” Bengt Friman, head of the Theory department at GSI, is delighted to announce.

Background: ERC grants at the TU Darmstadt

These scientists currently hold ERC awards:

ERC Consolidator Grants – Professors Patrick Eugster (Computer Science) and Achim Schwenk (Physics);

ERC Advanced Grant – Professor Mira Mezini (Computer Science)

ERC Starting Grant – Professors Stephan Roth and Jan Peters (both Computer Science), Professor Christina Thiele (Chemistry)