Nikhef is the Dutch National Institute for Subatomic Physics. The institute performs research into the elementary building blocks of our Universe, their mutual forces and the structure of space and time.

“Wonder is the seed of knowledge”
Nikhef looks for answers to the main physics questions of our time. From what fundamental building blocks has the world around us been built up? How did our Universe come to be? Do we understand the fundamental principles of everyday laws of nature? The people of Nikhef – theoretical and experimental scientists, engineers and instrument makers – are passionate about answering these and many other questions. Starting from a shared passion, they venture off the beaten track to realise scientific breakthroughs. They pass on their sense of wonder to new generations of researchers and to society.

Research at Nikhef is international.
Scientists from all over the world come to the Netherlands to work at Nikhef in national and international collaborations. Research deals on the one hand with elementary particles that collide with each other in controlled experiments at high energy and intensity, and on the other hand with observing particles that travel from the Universe towards Earth. Nikhef’s expertise in these areas is praised and utilised worldwide, for example by the international CERN collaboration, which uses particle accelerators to perform research into elementary particles.

“Knowledge is the seed of technology”
Nikhef contributes to the realisation of technologies and instruments for the experiments of tomorrow and for the societal applications of the day after tomorrow. For example, in the international context, the contribution of Nikhef to the development of complex detectors is praised time and again. Nikhef’s designers, technicians and instrument makers are respected partners for international colleagues, and are praised for their skills and problem-solving attitude. Nikhef continuously exchanges knowledge and ideas with various partners in industry. Entrepreneurs and companies increasingly discover the (commercial) value of innovations developed at Nikhef. The area of particle physics has contributed, among other things, to the development of the internet, GPS navigation, advanced sensor technologies and medical imaging techniques.

Nikhef can be characterised as a successful commitment of head, heart and hands. What is conceived with much intellectual power is supported with similar passion in terms of instrumentation, so that theories can also be proven. The wide range of skills and knowledge as well as the combination of ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’ make that Nikhef is a much-respected partner nationally and internationally, and has worldwide impact.

Nikhef’s scientists are involved in major international experiments and work daily to find answers to fundamental questions such as:

How was matter formed right after the Big Bang?
What exactly is the Higgs particle and are there more elementary particles?
Where has the anti-matter in our Universe gone?
What does dark matter consist of?
Where do ultra-high-energy cosmic radiation come from?
What are the properties of neutrinos?
What is the structure of space and time, and what do gravitational waves tell us?
How can we detect elementary particles even better?
How can we process and analyse petabytes worth of data?
How does one predict collisions between elementary particles?

Scientists and technicians work together to find new answers to these questions. A large part of Nikhef’s research takes place at the particle collider at CERN, the ‘Large Hadron Collider’. Nikhef is also active in astroparticle physics, where interactions of high-energy cosmic particles are observed, for example in the atmosphere or in sea water. Research into gravitational waves and the existence of dark matter is of key importance as well.

Next to developing theories of elementary particles, analysing measurement data, and innovative technology, Nikhef consistently succeeds in confirming its renowned international reputation.

Read more about our activities