1)  Who are you? Can you tell us something about yourself?

I am Frank Rathmann. I am 51 years of age, and I received my PhD from the U. of Marburg, Germany. Over the course of the past 25 years, I have worked at a number of different facilities (U. of Marburg, Germany; Max Planck Institut für Kernphysik, Heidelberg, Germany; U. of Madison, WI, USA; Indiana University Cyclotron Facility, Bloomington, IN, USA, Institut für Kernphysik, Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany). I enjoy doing experiments that no one has ever done before. I have a specialization in the production and handling of ensembles of polarized particles.

All particles (and the anti-particles) we know (electrons, protons, deuterons, anti-protons, etc.) possess a special property called magnetic moment, which is related to an angular momentum, and the associated quantum number is usually simply called “spin”. Thus all fundamental particles behave like little spinning tops. The interaction of these particles is of fundamental importance because the nuclear forces that bind together nucleons (protons and neutrons) in an atomic nucleus depend on the relative spin-orientation of the nucleons. The simplest nucleus, the bound state of a proton and a neutron for instance, is known to exist only when the spins of neutron (spin ½) and proton (spin ½) are oriented parallel to each other, forming the spin-1 particle known as the deuteron. Nature simply does not produce a spin-0 deuteron, and this illustrates that the spin-dependence plays an important role in the interaction between the constituent nucleons.

2)  You are leading an activity within the HP3 project? Which are the scientifically exciting aspects of your research project?

As is very often the case in basic research, discoveries are made when new capabilities become available. One of the questions scientists are currently tackling is how nature organizes the spins of the building blocks inside a nucleon (proton, neutron) such that the contributions from the constituent quarks, the gluons, and angular momenta add up to exactly form a spin-½ nucleon. There has been tremendous progress during the past 50 years in our capability to produce beams of polarized particles and to store and to accumulate them in a storage ring. The goal of the project I am leading is the production of a beam of polarized antiprotons. This has never been achieved before. Once stored beams of polarized antiprotons become available, many new exciting experiments addressing the spin-structure of the nucleon will be possible.  

3)  Who are the participants to your project?

The specific I3HP3 research project I am heading is composed of scientists from Italy, Germany, Poland, and Sweden. The experiments are carried out in the framework of a collaboration called PAX (Polarized Antiproton Experiments, http://collaborations.fz-juelich.de/ikp/pax/index.shtml).

4)  What do you want to achieve with this activity?

As mentioned before, the nucleon-nucleon interaction exhibits a large spin-dependence, and we know in great deal how polarized protons in a beam interact with polarized protons in a target. It is actually possible to polarize an initially unpolarized beam in a storage ring only by their interaction with polarized particles in a target. We would like to apply this technique, which is called spin-filtering, to eventually produce a beam of polarized antiprotons. But before, since very little is known about the spin-dependence of the , the interaction of the antiproton  in the beam and polarized protons  in the targets. Therefore, in the framework of this activity, technical developments and measurements are performed to determine this crucial information about the   system. Once it is known, at which energies the spin-dependence is most favorable for the production of a polarized antiproton beam a new dedicated machine making use of the spin-filtering technique will be built to provide highest antiproton beam polarization.

5)  In which way your activity could be of benefit for the society?

All technologies we use today once started from basic research. Take as an example the widely used mobile phones that everyone uses today. Their scientific basis dates back about 150 years to the discovery that electromagnetic waves can be described by four simple equations, the famous Maxwell equations (James Clerk Maxwell 1831-1879). Another example from the medical sciences is the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) which allows us to non-invasively take a look into what is going on inside of the human body. MRI has revolutionized medical diagnostics and thus helps to improve the life of everyone who is in need for very detailed diagnosis in case of medical problems. The scientific basis of MRI is the fact that protons carry angular momentum or spin. The discovery that particles carry spin was made for electrons in 1925, thus dates back almost a century. In the long term, society benefits greatly from basic research, but it is very hard to predict which spin-off from basic research will lead to a new technology in the future. We simply do not know what the future will bring and which kind of technology will be required e.g., in the 22nd century.

6)  Why do you think a young person should choose to study science and is there any reason for which should they do so in Europe?

First of all, I believe that doing science is fun, and I personally take great pleasure out from what I am doing. Whatever the future will bring, there will always be a strong need for inventive and creative people. Whether we talk about climate change or about the development of new technologies for the production of energy, physicists and engineers have always played an important role in these transforming processes by being at the forefront of both research and development. The direct impact of the research I am doing is that I mainly work with and train young physicists and engineers who later on take a job somewhere in industry, where they apply their knowledge, the techniques they have acquired to find things out. Physicist and scientists in general are skilled in making things work that have never been tried before, and this constitutes an excellent basis for whatever the future will bring. This is precisely why industry has a high demand for physicists.

The European research area is at the forefront of research in many areas of science. At the same time, Europe provides a very attractive surrounding both for doing science and also by providing fantastic places to live, with a high quality of cultural offerings, excellent schools and universities, good places to raise a family etc. In my view, this is why a young person should aim for a scientific education in Europe; the overall total equation of life is simply best fulfilled in Europe.  

 


The HadronPhysics3 project is supported by the European Union
under the 7th Framework Capacities Programme in the area of Research Infrastructures (RI).