Distinguished Lecture

Strangeness in the Universe and quantum mechanics with radiation detectors: from exotic atoms studies to impossible atoms hunting

Dr Catalina Curceanu
National Institute of Nuclear Physics, Frascati, Italy

I shall present a series of experiments making use of advanced radiation detectors to measure X rays generated in the de-excitations of exotic atoms, produced at accelerators in Italy and Japan, and of “impossible atoms”, which we hunt in the Gran Sasso underground laboratory. Our studies have a strong impact in nuclear physics and astrophysics, as well as in fundamental physics (quantum mechanics).

I’ll show how we produce and measure kaonic exotic atoms in SIDDHARTA experiment at the DAΦNE Collider at the LNF-INFN laboratory, Frascati (Roma, Italy), where, combining the excellent quality kaon beam delivered by the DAΦNE collider with fast and very precise Silicon Drift Detectors, we have performed unprecedented measurements of light kaonic atoms. Presently, a major upgrade of the setup, SIDDHARTA-2 is being realized, aiming to perform in the coming years precision measurements of kaonic deuterium and other exotic atoms. Our studies represent contribute to unlock the secrets of the strong interaction in the strangeness sector and to understand the role of strangeness in the Universe, from nuclei to stars (neutron stars).

In the second part I shall introduce the VIP experiment at the LNGS underground laboratory, hunting “impossible atoms”, i.e. atoms prohibited by the Pauli Exclusion principle. I shall also briefly discuss the search of the spontaneous radiation as a signal of collapse models propose to solve the “measurement problem” (Schroedinger’ cat paradox) and put forward the idea that similar experiments could be performed in the underground laboratory under construction in Australia, allowing to perform additional investigations.

Dr Catalina Oana Curceanu was born in Transilvania (Romania), close to the Dracula castle. She graduated in physics with the highest qualification in Bucharest , and obtained her PhD Summa cum Laude in experimental particle and nuclear physics within the OBELIX experiment at CERN (Geneva). Since 1992 she has lived and worked in Italy at the National Institute of Nuclear Physics, Laboratori Nazionali di Frascati, LNF-INFN. She leads a research team performing nuclear and fundamental physics experiments on the DAΦNE collider at Frascati and at the underground laboratory of Gran Sasso. Her team also participates in experiments performed at CERN (Geneva) and in Japan (J-PARC). 

Date & time

Mon 21 Aug 2017, 11am–12pm



Seminar Room


ANU staff and students welcome