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NWO Institute Nikhef: National Institute for Subatomic Physics

Both an institute and a partnership

Nikhef is the national Dutch partnership in subatomic research between NWO-I and six universities: six universities: Radboud University in Nijmegen, University of GroningenUniversity of AmsterdamMaastricht UniversityUtrecht University and VU Amsterdam. The institute is located at the Amsterdam Science Park.

Big physics questions

Nikhef's researchers seek answers to the big physics questions of our time. What fundamental building blocks does the world around us consist of? How did the universe come into existence? What are the basic principles of the laws of nature?

Particle accelerators and detectors

Research takes place at particle accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva and with detectors around the world for cosmic particles, dark matter and gravitational waves.

Three major experiments at CERN

At CERN, Nikhef participates in three major experiments: ATLAS, LHCb and ALICE. The institute makes important scientific and technological contributions to these experiments. At CERN, among other things, the Higgs particle was discovered in 2012. Now researchers are tracking down clues in the particle collisions, among other things, that may shed more light on the excess of matter over antimatter. The details of the new Higgs particle are also being closely examined.

Five major projects outside CERN

The institute is involved in five major projects outside CERN:

  • KM3NeT: neutrino detector with cables attached to the floor of the Mediterranean Sea with special glass spheres produced by amongst others Nikhef, that detect light trails of neutrinos coming from the universe.
  • Pierre Auger: observatory on the pampas of Argentina that picks up extremely energy-rich particles from the universe.
  • Virgo: detector for gravitational waves near Pisa in Italy that observes vibrations in the space-time caused by colliding black holes and neutron stars.
  • XENON1T: underground laboratory in the Italian Gran Sasso for the quest for dark matter.
  • eEDM: research in Groningen to unravel the as yet not understood electric dipole moment of electrons.

Theory and technology

Nikhef's experimental research lines are complemented by high-quality theoretical research, groundbreaking detector-R&D, and development of powerful computational and processing techniques. The departments of Mechanical Technology, Electronics Technology and Computer Technology provide the necessary technical support.

Together with industry

Nikhef uses innovative technologies. Dutch companies help build the experiments. The transfer of knowledge and technology to and from industry and society is therefore also important to Nikhef.


The scientific staff of the partnership consists of about 240 physicists, including about 100 PhD students and 40 postdocs. About 80 employees work in the technical departments.


Read the Nikhef-magazine Dimensies here. (Dutch only)

Director Nikhef

Prof. Stan Bentvelsen

Head of Communication Nikhef

Martijn van Calmthout

Contact details

National institute for subatomic physics
PO Box 41882
NL-1009 DB Amsterdam
+31 20 592 2000
Visiting address:
Science Park 105
NL-1098 XG Amsterdam


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