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Physics Grand Challenges

New ideas for a new era of physics

Our Grand Challenges address what we think are the most important and exciting opportunities for physics to drive new scientific discoveries and breakthroughs that will transform the world in which we live.

2019 Grand Challenge Winners

Mission to Alpha Centauri Ending modern slavery with big data

Travel to another star sounds futuristic, but it is becoming possible. Staff in the School of Physics are tackling fundamental challenges posed by Breakthrough Starshot, a $100M initiative to send small spacecraft to Alpha. 

Learn more about this project here.

Modern slavery is big business, but most organisations don’t know how to find or deal with slavery in their supply chains. Using advanced data visualisation techniques this project will create supply chain transparency to help end modern slavery.

Lean more about this project here.


Grand challenges

AI is used in many areas of modern physics, but physics is also shedding new light on the physical nature of neuro-inspired intelligence.

Representative research themes: astronomy, quantum physics, particle physics, medical physics, complex systems, neural dynamics

What is dark matter? What about dark energy? And how does space emerge? How do we reconcile quantum mechanics and general relativity? How do galaxies, stars and planets form? These questions, and more, still remain waiting to be answered. 

Representative research themes: astronomy, particle physics, space physics, cosmology, quantum physics

New phenomena are found on the nanoscale and things we thought we knew can behave in unpredictable ways. Quantum effects, such as superposition and entanglement, offer the potential of unprecedented information processing, but how can we control fragile quantum states to achieve this?

Representative research themes: nanoscience, quantum physics, photonics, materials physics

Smart materials, devices and renewable energy technologies, underpinned by physics, offer the best solution to the growing climate change problems we face. Physics-based analytical techniques are also used to quantify environmental impacts of our activities.

Representative research themes: materials physics, photonics, space physics, sustainability analysis

In the era of social media, post-truth can propagate out of control, how do we raise the visibility and credibility of science and scientists? What strategies are most effective in abolishing misinformation and disrupting disinformation? How can we convincingly communicate physics to reverse the retreat from reason?

Representative research themes: physics communication, physics education

Physics has always played a pivotal role in medicine and biology – from the discovery of the DNA double helix structure to the invention of MRI. Now, new insights are emerging into the inner workings of the human brain – possibly the most complex structure in the universe.

Representative research themes: biological physics, neurophysics, medical physics, photonics, imaging