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Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 36 | 26. Juni 2012
Priority Programme “Precision Experiments in Particle and Astrophysics with Cold and Ultracold Neutrons“ (SPP 1491)

The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has established a Priority Programme entitled “Precision Experiments in Particle and Astrophysics with Cold and Ultracold Neutrons” (SPP 1491) in 2009. The programme will start its second three-year period in spring 2013.

The aim of this Priority Programme is to address basic open questions in particle and astrophysics using a specific tool: the neutron, which allows the search for new physics becoming manifest itself as small deviations from expectations. Many neutron physics observables are sensitive to physics beyond the Standard Model emerging from superstrings (hypothetical gauge bosons in large extradimensions), supersymmetry (electric dipole moment prediction at the experimental limit) or other Grand Unified Theories (charge quantisation). Basic properties of the quark-mixing Cabibbo-Kobayashi-Maskawa (CKM) matrix need to be tested. The breaking of symmetries such as parity P, time reversal T and combined charge conjugation and parity symmetry CP shall be investigated. CP violation is a requirement for dynamic generation of the baryon-antibaryon asymmetry of the universe. The research programme will focus on five priority areas, which are directly related to specific physics/astrophysics issues and instrumentation.

  • CP-symmetry violation and particle physics in the early universe. The focus is a next generation experiment to measure the neutron electric dipole moment with a sensitivity increased by at least one order of magnitude within the next six years.

  • The structure and nature of weak interaction and possible extensions of the Standard Model. The focus will be on novel experiments on neutron β-decay related to symmetries and weak interaction.

  • Tests of gravitation with quantum objects. The aim is to improve the experimental sensitivity of neutrons to gravity and to hypothetical short ranged forces.

  • Charge quantisation and the electric neutrality of the neutron. The aim is to make an improved measurement on the value of the neutron’s electric charge.

The intended gain in experimental precision requires the development of new or improved measurement techniques.

  • New techniques: particle detection, magnetometry and neutron optics. Within the next three years, in the field of magnetometry, residual fields should be measured on a < 5 fT level meeting the requirements of neutron electric dipole measurements. New particle detectors are needed for the expected high count rate of cold and ultra-cold neutrons, efficient low-energy proton counting as well as low-energy electron spectroscopy. High-intensity experiments with instant count rates of up to 108/s require detectors with fast self triggering readout electronics, pulse-shape analysis, and data acquisition. The research programme requires developments of specialised neutron optics. One major issue is the control of systematic effects such as depolarisation in neutron guides, the influence of magnetic field fluctuations on neutron polarisation, and spin rotation.

Instrumentation outside the scope of experiments or facilities relevant to this science field and theoretical work unrelated to the outcome (sensitivity) of measurements envisaged will not be part of this programme.

For all areas proposals as from experiment as from theory are welcome.

Proposals for the second and final three-year funding period should be submitted in English on paper (1 copy) and as PDF-files on CD-ROM (including the proposal and all appendices, e.g. publications) to the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, attn. Dr. Karin Zach, 53170 Bonn, keyword “SPP 1491: Precision Experiments” not later than 1 October 2012.

Since October 2011 the DFG has offered a number of its programmes in a modular structure. This “modularisation”, which includes a revised guideline portfolio for the programmes affected, enables applicants to select the combination of funding modules they need to complete their research. New forms and guidelines offer structured information.

We request all participants to follow the revised guideline portfolio while preparing their proposals and to submit their proposals on paper and on CD-ROM as mentioned above. Please do not submit your proposal via DFG’s electronic proposal processing system elan.

The evaluation panel will take place at the Physikzentrum in Bad Honnef from 12 – 14 December 2012. The second funding period will start in March 2013.

Proposal guidelines and preparation instructions are given in the DFG leaflets available on the DFG’s website, e.g. form 50.05 “Guidelines Priority Programmes” and form 54.01 “Proposal Preparation Instructions – Project Proposals” (see “Additional Instructions for Submitting Proposals Outside of elan”, page 11).

Further Information

Proposal instructions and guidelines can be found at:

For scientific enquiries concerning the scope of the programme, please contact the programme’s coordinators:

For administrative enquiries please contact: