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Carlos Frenk

Professor Carlos Frenk FRS

Research Fellow


University of Durham

Research summary

Our universe seems a bizarre place. Only 5% of its content is the

ordinary matter of which stars, planets and people are made. A further

20% is the dark matter responsible for the force of gravity that has

shaped our universe. Its identity is unknown but it probably consists

of exotic elementary particles known as ``cold dark matter.'' The

remaining 75% is a mysterious form of ``dark energy'' that opposes

gravity and is causing our universe to expand at an accelerating rate.

Our universe has a rich, complex structure with galaxies as the

building blocks. In the cold dark matter theory, this rich tapestry

developed from tiny primordial perturbations, seeded just after the

Big Bang and amplified to enormous proportions by gravity over 14

billion years of evolution. Growing concentrations of dark matter form

in which gases cool, condense and fragment into stars. Feedback loops

are established as gas is heated by stellar winds and supernovae and

supermassive black holes form at the centre of the protogalaxies.

My research focuses on understanding the dark matter and the physical

processes by which galaxies form. I use state-of-the-art

supercomputers to simulate how the early simplicity of our universe

metamorphosed into the observed complex network of galaxies and

clusters. In this way, I investigate problems such as the formation of

the first stars that light up the universe, the structure of the dark

clumps of matter that harbour galaxies and the formation of

supermassive black holes. I also work with actual galaxy data in order

to test the theory against the real world.

Fundamental research of this kind has no immediate practical

application although it does have important spin-offs such as novel

computational methods and the training of students in physics and

advanced supercomputing techniques. Its main value, however, stems

from our desire to understand our world, a desire that has led to the

technological developments upon which our modern world depends.

Grants awarded

Dark matter, dark energy and the origin of cosmic structure

Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Dates: Oct 2006 - Sep 2012

Value: £200,000

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