The laboratory performs basic and applied research in physics and related natural science disciplines. Main fields of study include plasma physics, atomic physics, nuclear structure research and medical research.
The chief tool is the heavy ion accelerator facility consisting of UNILAC, the Universal Linear Accelerator (energy of 2 - 20 MeV per nucleon), SIS 18, the heavy-ion synchrotron (1 - 2 GeV/u) and ESR, the experimental storage ring (0.5 - 1 GeV/u). The UNILAC was commissioned in 1975, the SIS 18 and the ESR were added in 1990 boosting the ion acceleration from 10% of light speed to 90%.
The lab is a member of the Hermann von Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft Deutscher Forschungszentren (HGF), an association of national research centers.
See also: GANIL, RIKEN, Dubna.