Research at Nikhef focuses on particle physics and astroparticle physics. In these fields of physics, scientists study elementary particles.

Particle physics

In particle physics, very large detectors are used to study elementary particles. Particles such as protons are accelerated in a particle accelerator, and made to collide with each other. The detectors record these collisions, which release a lot of energy to create new particles according to Einstein’s E=mc². In a way, detectors are microscopes; the smaller the details researchers want to see, the larger the microscope and its lenses need to be. Various detectors have been built, for example at CERN, DESY and Fermilab. Nikhef performs particle physics research at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) CERN.

Nikhef programmes particle physics:
ALICE: the quark-gluon plasma
ATLAS: Higgs, supersymmetry and Dark Matter
LHCb: Anti-matter and b quarks
eEDM: The electron’s electric dipole moment

Astroparticle physics

Astroparticle physics combines physics and astronomy. In the cosmos, very strong magnetic fields create what can be considered a ‘natural’ particle accelerator. To perform astrophysics research, scientists ‘just’ need to build the right detectors. This is what astroparticle physicists at Nikhef are doing. Nikhef’s research takes place at the research collaborations KM3NeT, XENON, Auger and (Advanced) Virgo.

Nikhef programmes astroparticle physics:

Auger: cosmic radiation
KM3NeT: neutrinos
(Advanced) Virgo: gravitational waves
XENON1T: dark matter


The Nikhef theory group studies a wide range of topics in high-energy physics, from particle and astroparticle physics to cosmology, gravitational waves and string theory. Read more about Theory.

Instrumentation and Computing

To answer major questions in elementary particle physics, ground-breaking experiments are needed. The aim of the Detector R&D programme of Nikhef is to conceive instrumentation concepts and test them prior to implementation in scientific programmes of Nikhef. Read more about Detector R&D.

The Department of Advanced Computing for Research facilitates the many terabytes of data generated by physicists in performing their research, and makes them available to physicists around the world. Read more


The scientists at Nikhef would not be able to perform their research without the supporting technology departments of Nikhef. These departments of Mechanical Technology, Electronics Technology and Computer Technology develop ever newer techniques for building and implementing detection technologies and data analysis.
Read more.