Understanding NSF Research: Physics
One of the oldest scientific disciplines, physics helps explain the fundamental workings of matter, from the smallest particles to the largest galaxies. Physics played a key role in the detection of gravitational waves by NSF's LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) and in producing the first-ever image of a black hole. Advances in quantum physics have created some of the 21st century's critical tools such as lasers and broadband communications. New discoveries in quantum physics promise faster, more reliable computers and more secure communication networks. From space flight to GPS, physics provides the foundation for countless innovations woven into the fabric of modern life.
A longtime supporter of physics research and training, NSF investments spark the imaginations of physics students, sustain university laboratories and support international collaborative efforts to understand the physical world. Funding supports both theoretical and experimental research.
Atomic, molecular and optical physics
Understanding how atoms and molecules interact with light provides the groundwork for a host of technology advances in the life sciences and medicine. Research in this area also impacts precision measurement such as atomic clocks.
Ninety-nine percent of the visible Universe is thought to consist of plasmas, a fundamental state of matter consisting of positive ions and free electrons. Applications of plasma physics include astrophysics, materials science, and fusion science.
At the very smallest scales atoms can exhibit unusual behaviors. Developing tools to study interactions between the tiniest particles of matter help researchers harness the potential of the quantum world. Their efforts promise to dramatically increase the accuracy and efficiency of communications, computing and sensing systems.
NSF support makes possible significant advances in our understanding of the universe. Using multiple types of signals such as light, particles and waves to observe a cosmic object or phenomenon, multi-messenger astrophysics allows researchers to probe the cosmos with great precision.
|NSF Physics News