FAIR, which will be one of the world’s largest accelerator centres, will allow a wide range of research to be carried out, ranging from nuclear and plasma physics to medical physics and materials science. The new facility will consist of two synchrotrons with a circumference of 1100m built on top of one another in an underground tunnel.

Ions from GSI's existing 200m circumference synchrotron will then be fed into the new double-ring facility, which will multiply the intensity of the ion beams by a factor of 100, giving up to 1011 ions per second. The new rings will also increase the maximum energy of the beams by a factor of 20 up to about 35 GeV.

Researchers working at the new facility will use the accelerated ions to generate beams of novel, unstable nuclei by firing the ions at a target such as beryllium. Other experiments will use beams of antiprotons to study the study the strong force, while heavy nuclei will also be collided at high energies to generate a "quark-gluon" plasma -- the state of matter that is believed to have existed in the first moments after the Big Bang.

Plasma physicists, meanwhile, hope to use a high-powered laser that is also being built at GSI to create plasmas inside bulk materials with temperatures and densities approximating those inside giant planets such as Jupiter. Atomic physicists will also use the facility to explore the properties of antihydrogen, which consist of an antiproton and positron.

Germany's federal government will provide 65% of the total funding for the project, with a further 10% coming from the German state of Hesse. The remaining 25% will come from the other 14 partner countries, which include China, France, the UK and India. The project, which was first proposed back in 2001, aims to be completed by 2015.