Research

Research at the Institute of Physics (INP) focuses on the study of matter, radiation and the fundamental laws which govern the physical world. Physics has thematic diversity and seeks to reveal the main principles underlying the properties and behavior of objects, however complex these may be. Its approach also very much influences and nourishes research in other disciplines.

Fundamental laws, matter and radiation

Research in physics focuses on understanding the mechanisms underlying the observable phenomena of matter and radiation and of their interactions. To achieve their goals, the INP's teams carry out experiments, conduct theoretical work, model and numerically simulate phenomena. They design the instruments and tools necessary for their research and rely on the development of infrastructures and technological platforms, in particular very large research infrastructures (TGIRs), and work collectively to advance knowledge.

A broad disciplinary field

The INP's research takes place within a broad disciplinary field that covers fundamental interactions, electromagnetism, atoms, molecules, complex organized or disorganized matter, as well as optics. To carry out its primary mission of broadening the field of knowledge in its discipline, the INP focuses on six major strategic research areas:

  • Theoretical physics, modeling and numerical simulations
  • Optics, atoms, molecules and quantum physics: the foundations and applications thereof
  • Condensed matter, materials, nanosciences
  • States of matter, phase transitions, instabilities, disorder
  • Lasers and plasmas
  • The physics of living organisms.

The National Committee for Scientific Research (CoNRS) sections steered by the INP

The Institute of Physics' research fields come within the scope of the disciplinary sections 2, 3, 4, 5, and 11, and interdisciplinary committee 54, as defined by the French National Committee for Scientific Research (CoNRS). These are steered by the INP, with the exception of section 11 which the INP jointly steers.

The CoNRS site

Des interfaces multiples avec les autres disciplines

The foundations of the INP's work lie in understanding the world around us. The Institute develops constantly evolving disciplines which cover broad fields, ranging from elementary to complex phenomena. Its research overlaps with those of engineering, chemistry, biology, mathematics and sometimes the humanities and the social sciences. This can be seen in its many interfaces and projects run in synergy with other CNRS Institutes - with the Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics (IN2P3), the Institute for Earth Sciences and Astronomy (INSU) and the Institute for Engineering and Systems Sciences (INSIS) for particle physics, cosmology, astrophysics and engineering, and also the Institute for Mathematical Sciences (INSMI), the Institute of Chemistry (INC) and the Institute of Biological Sciences (INSB). These links involve not only instruments and methods associated with theoretical or experimental approaches, but also software developed by physicists and transcribed or adapted for use in other fields of research.

At the core of very large research infrastructures

The study and advanced characterization of matter and of all manifestations of its interactions, including the various levels and scales at which they operate, set many challenges for researchers. These systems include isolated atoms and molecules, plasmas, gases, liquids, amorphous or crystalline solids and biological systems. The tools developed, to help knowledge progress and to inspire new technologies, need to be particularly effective. Their aim is also to help answer questions posed by other disciplines (chemistry, biology, earth sciences, astrophysics, cosmology, engineering) through collaborations. These high-performance tools arise from a wide variety of instrumental developments, and range from laboratory tools to shared equipment (nanotechnology centers, electron microscopes, NMR, radiation sources), including large and very large research infrastructures. Networks of research platforms and infrastructures enable researchers to organize their work at the regional, national and European levels. The expensive advanced instruments developed and implemented in these networks are open to the scientific community via project calls and program committees suitable to each type of instrument. European-level organization and management strengthens the dynamics of international exchanges and the quality of instrument development.

Together with the other CNRS institutes and its partners outside the organization, the INP participates actively in the steering bodies of many research infrastructures (IRs) and very large research infrastructures (TGIRs).

 

The research teams of the INP also work on - and use - supercomputers at national facilities such the Institute for Development and Resources in Intensive Scientific Computing (IDRIS) in Orsay, the Très Grand Centre de Calcul (TGCC) in Bruyère-le-Châtel, the Centre Informatique National de l’Enseignement Supérieur (CINES) in Montpellier, as well as at the international facilities managed by PRACE, but also on   smaller computers in mid-sized, regional facilities.