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NWO Institute Nikhef: National Institute for Subatomic Physics

Both an institute and a partnership

Nikhef is not just an institute with a building on the Amsterdam Science Park, but it is also a partnership between NWO-I and six universities: Radboud University in Nijmegen, University of Groningen, University of Amsterdam, Maastricht University, Utrecht University and VU Amsterdam.

Big physics questions

Researchers from Nikhef seek answers to the big questions of physics in our time. Which fundamental building blocks is the world around us made from? How did the universe arise? What are the basic principles of the laws of physics?

Particle accelerators and detectors

The research takes place at particle accelerators, such as the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, and with detectors all over the world for, amongst other things, cosmic particles, dark matter and gravitational waves.

Three large experiments at CERN

At CERN, Nikhef participates in three of the four large experiments: ATLAS, LHCb and ALICE. The institute makes important scientific and technological contributions to these experiments. At CERN, the Higgs particle was discovered in 2012. Now researchers are searching in the particle collisions for clues that could throw more light on the excess of matter compared to antimatter.

Five large projects outside of CERN

The institute is involved in five large projects outside of 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

The experimental research lines of Nikhef are complemented by eminent theoretical research, groundbreaking detector R&D, and the development of powerful calculation and processing techniques. The departments of Mechanics, Electronics and Information Technology provide the technical support required.

Collaboration with industry

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


The scientific staff of the partnership is made up of about 230 physicists. of whom about 100 PhD's and 35 Postdocs. About 75 employees work in the technical departments.


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

Director Nikhef

Prof. S.C.M. 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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