Nuclear physics research at Carolina focuses on the unknown nature of the fundamental strong and weak forces, on fusion reactions occurring in stars, and on understanding the nature of neutrinos. Our group performs cutting-edge research both in theoretical and experimental nuclear physics.
Our experimental effort is partially centered at the Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory (TUNL), one of only four U.S. Department of Energy nuclear physics “Centers of Excellence”, which is jointly operated by UNC, NC State and Duke University. TUNL hosts unique accelerator facilities that draw collaborators from around the world. Among these facilities are the Laboratory for Experimental Nuclear Astrophysics (LENA), which holds the world record in proton beam intensity at low bombarding energies, and the High Intensity Gamma-Ray Source (HIgS), which provides monoenergetic polarized gamma-ray beams. The UNC nuclear astrophysics group uses these facilities to measure nuclear fusion reactions that take place in stars. We are particularly interested to answer two fundamental questions: how do stars evolve and explode, and where have the elements been produced we consist of?
The main non-accelerator based research of our group is focused on the nature of neutrinos and the weak interaction. In particular, we are leading Majorana, an international collaboration searching for neutrino-less double beta decay in 76Ge. The collaboration is currently building the Majorana Demonstrator at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota. We are involved in the KATRIN tritium beta decay experiment, which is a direct measurement of the neutrino mass. We are also members of the mini-LENS collaboration, which is building a prototype of a next-generation detector of solar neutrinos.
Research in nuclear theory centers on problems in fundamental symmetries, neutrinos and astrophysics, including double-beta decay, the r-process, and atomic electric dipole moments. Another key effort involves solutions of the quantum mechanical many-body problem through Monte Carlo techniques and density functional theory. In addition, our group constructed and maintains the most advanced thermonuclear reaction and decay library in the world, called STARLIB, which provides a foundation for computer models of stellar evolution and explosions.
All UNC graduate students working in experimental and theoretical nuclear physics are supported by major research grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, or NASA while conducting their thesis research. Our graduates have pursued highly successful careers in academia, industry, government, and national laboratories.
Faculty and Research Areas
NUCLEAR APPLICATIONS AND PHOTONUCLEAR PHYSICS