INP Institute of Physics

Fundamental laws, matter and radiation

Research carried out in the laboratories managed by the CNRS Institute of Physics (INP) covers the study of matter, radiation and the fundamental laws that govern the physical world. It is driven both by the desire to understand how the universe works and by the commitment to meet the challenges facing today's society. To achieve this, physicists undertake experiments, model phenomena and design the tools required to validate their theories and experiments.

Alain Schuhl, Director

From fundamental physics to its applications

The activities of the Institute of Physics aim both to further our understanding of matter, radiation and fundamental interactions, and develop cutting-edge technologies in the fields of nanosciences, molecules, materials, processes and structures, and instrumentation.

Interdisciplinary projects, innovation and international collaboration

As well as developing its own research areas, the Institute seeks to strengthen the interdisciplinary nature of its research, especially at the interface with other disciplines, in particular the engineering sciences and chemistry (materials, photonics, nanosciences, plasmas, soft matter, etc). Joint projects with the National Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics (IN2P3) and the National Institute for Earth Sciences and Astronomy (INSU) focus on fundamental interactions in theoretical physics. Other complementary disciplines include mathematics, the life sciences, the environmental sciences, and the humanities and social sciences.

The INP strategy focuses on the novel instrumentation developed by physicists, such as microscopy and atom probe platforms, regional nanoscience facilities, and very large-scale research infrastructures (TGIR) such as synchrotrons, neutron sources and strong magnetic fields. Similarly, INP's participation in programs such as C'Nano, and the creation of multidisciplinary exploratory projects in metrology, theoretical physics and access to coherent X-ray sources are major assets.

Physics makes a major contribution to innovation, as testified by the 192 patents and software programs filed between 2009 and 2011, the portfolio of 428 patent families, and the fifteen start-ups that have emerged from INP labs since 2007. The Institute is stepping up its effort to find applications for its research results through a network of correspondents, who play an essential role in raising awareness within the INP units while giving them support.

Internationally, the Institute is strengthening its cooperation with partners in Russia, the US and Europe, while developing new collaborations with emerging countries such as China, India, Brazil, South Korea and Singapore through interdisciplinary initiatives such as International Associated Laboratories (LIA) and International Research Networks (GDRI).

Strategic priorities

  • modeling, simulation and physical theories;
  • optics, atoms, molecules, and quantum physics: foundations and applications;
  • condensed matter, materials, nanosciences;
  • states of matter, phase transitions, instabilities, disorder;
  • instrumentation: laser sources, imaging systems, latest-generation microscopes;
  • very large-scale research infrastructures (TGIR), technology platform networks.

The Institute of Physics drives and coordinates its scientific community. It sets up structural initiatives at the national level, such as long-term planning, programs, technology networks and training, as well as undertaking monitoring and representation missions at the international level.

Synthesis of the YBa2Cu3 high critical temperature superconductor (Laboratoire de physique et d'étude des matériaux, Paris).

The influence of French physics

Historically, French physics has made a major contribution to improving knowledge in the fundamental sciences at the highest international level.

This is clearly illustrated by the 13 Nobel Prizes in Physics awarded to French physicists, including Serge Haroche (2012) and Albert Fert (2007). Both also received the CNRS Gold Medal in 2009 and 2003, respectively, along with Alain Aspect (2005).

The INP also boasts 39 European Research Council laureates over a period of 5 years.