INP Institute of Physics

Fundamental laws, matter and radiation

The research conducted by teams from the Institute of Physics (INP) falls under three main categories: fundamental laws, optics and lasers; condensed matter and nanoscience; and diluted matter. They are driven both by the urge to understand the fundamental laws of nature, and the will to meet the challenges facing today's society. To achieve this, the researchers conduct experiments, carry out theoretical work, create digital models of phenomena, and develop appropriate instrumentation.

Alain Schuhl, Director

Strategic priorities

Physics seeks to elucidate the mechanisms underlying observable phenomena by developing concepts, lines of thinking, and innovative instruments. The primary mission of the Institute consists in expanding knowledge in its disciplinary field, based on 6 priority areas:

  • Modeling, digital simulation and theoretical physics,
  • Optics, atoms, molecules and quantum physics: foundations and applications,
  • Condensed matter, materials, nanoscience,
  • States of matter, phase transitions, instability, disorder,
  • Instrumentation: laser sources, imaging systems, microscopy,
  • Very Large Research Infrastructures (TGIR), technology platform networks.

Physics has contributed to the progress of basic sciences at the highest international level, as illustrated by France's 12 Nobel prizes in Physics, including two in the past ten years, awarded to Albert Fert in 2007 and Serge Haroche in 2012.

The INP's significant international visibility relies on the implementation of coherent international partnerships based on structuring initiatives (international associated laboratories, international research networks and international joint units), especially in Europe, Canada, Japan, the US, Latin America, and Singapore.

Interdisciplinary approach

As well as developing its own research areas within a constantly evolving discipline, the INP endeavors to strengthen the interdisciplinary nature of research, often at the interface with other CNRS institutes. This is notably the case in the fields of photonics and laser engineering, biophysics, mathematical physics, physicochemistry and materials, quantum gravity, astro- and geophysics.

Physicists develop methods and instrumentation, as well as software programs and theoretical approaches, which other disciplines can subsequently rely on.

The INP's participation in structuring programs—for example in nanoscience, space, astrophysics or the atmosphere—are important assets, along with the Institute's implementation of multidisciplinary exploratory projects in metrology, theoretical physics, laboratory astrophysics, or concerning access to coherent X-ray sources.

In collaboration with internal and external CNRS partners, the INP is involved in the management of various research facilities, including SOLEIL, APOLLON, LLB, ESRF, ILL, LNCMI, XFEL and ESS.

The Institute's researchers are also regular users of the high-performance computing machines located at IDRIS (Orsay, near Paris), or at one of the high-performance computing centers across France (Grenoble, Toulouse, and Lyon, to name but a few).

Innovation and technology transfer

In terms of innovation, the INP's proactive strategy is two-pronged. It consists in promoting the research of CNRS teams and units to economic players in order to foster new partnerships—as well as in detecting, assessing, and stimulating the innovative potential of team and unit projects, before assisting them in the transfer and industrial application of innovative and breakthrough technologies. The Institute's 2 joint research units and 16 laboratories with companies, its 65 active startups, and 45 (on average) annual patent registrations testify to its emphasis on relations with the business world.

Innovative research instruments and equipment are another key element of the projects conducted by the INP: microscopy platforms and atomic force probes, local nanoscience facilities or very large-scale research infrastructures (synchrotrons, neutrons, intense fields, lasers, etc.).

Disseminating to the widest possible audience the scientific advances achieved by its laboratories and researchers is also a priority for the INP. The Institute's structured strategy seeks to encourage all researchers to produce scientific communication content intended for the press, the social media—and hence for the public at large—as well as for specialized publications.

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

Key figures

  • 3,000 researchers and academics,
    including 1,200 from the CNRS,
  • 1,500 engineers and technicians,
    1,000 of whom from the CNRS
  • and 1,700 PhD and postdoctoral fellows

  • 72 research and service units
  • 13 research federations
  • 23 research networks

  • 2 international joint units,
  • 21 international associated laboratories,
  • 9 international research networks
  • 64 international programs for scientific cooperation

*Source: Labintel, March 2016 – processed by CNRS / SAP2S