We are all made of stardust

GSI scientist Yuri Litvinov receives €2 million in EU funding

Dr. Yuri Litvinov, GSI (Photo: Gaby Otto)

GSI scientist Dr. Yuri Litvinov has received €2 million from the European Research Council to fund his work in stellar nucleosynthesis. His aim is to understand how the elements within stars are formed. The European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant will allow Litvinov to recruit a six-person research team. Together, the team will spend the next five years carrying out experiments at the GSI ring accelerator to discover how the building blocks of human life are created. Litvinov’s work is expected to pave the way for subsequent experiments at the future FAIR accelerator facility, where scientists will be able to produce hundreds of exotic nuclei that are not accessible using current methods.


The European Research Council panel chose Yuri Litvinov’s research proposal from among 2,050 competing applications. His research delves into the physics of stars, within which the elements of our periodic table are formed. Exotic nuclei, a by-product of nucleosynthesis, are of particular interest to his work. As these nuclei do not occur naturally anywhere on Earth, they have to be artificially created with the help of accelerators.


In order to create and store exotic nuclei, Litvinov requires a facility like the one at GSI. Scientists use the accelerator facility to produce the nuclei, which they can then store in the experimental storage ring (ESR) for closer inspection. The ESR, which has a circumference of 108 metres, will be complemented by the Cryring storage ring, with a circumference of 54 metres. The Cryring is currently being assembled at GSI. It is an in-kind contribution of FAIR-partner Sweden and will form part of the future FAIR accelerator facility.


Litvinov and his team want to take precise measurements of the nuclei stored in the rings. Their mass, lifespan, and the ways they decay into other particles are all important factors in understanding the role these nuclei play in the nucleosynthesis of stars. To carry out these measurements, the physicist plans to develop new, more sensitive detectors.


Litvinov studied physics in Saint Petersburg and joined GSI as a scientist in 1999. With Prof. Hans Geissel as his thesis supervisor, he obtained a PhD with distinction at Giessen University in 2003. He worked at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg for two years from 2009, before earning his post-doctoral qualification at Heidelberg University in 2011. Litvinov has been actively involved in the APPA/SPARC collaboration under the management of Prof. Thomas Stöhlker since 2011. He is responsible for coordinating the ESR experiments, and was appointed head of the SPARC Detectors department in 2012.

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