Rubbia's activities presently concentrate on the problem of energy supply for the future. During his term as President of ENEA (an Italian Government sponsored research and development agency (1999-2005), he promotes a new method for concentrating solar power at high temperatures for energy production, known as the Archimede project. He has since been Scientific Adviser for several projects and organizations dealing with renewable energy sources.
In 1970, he is appointed professor of physics at Harvard University, dividing his time between teaching at Harvard and research at CERN, where a new particle beam accelerator (the SPS, Super Proton Synchrotron) uses counterrotating beams of protons colliding against each other. With David Cline and Alfred Mann, he proposes a neutrino experiment at the new Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), which hints at the existence of a new particle – the “charm quark”.
Carlo Rubbia is born in Gorizia, Italy.
Rubbia serves as director-general of CERN.
Since 2010, he has been the Scientific Director of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam (Germany).
At the end of the World War II, most of the province of Gorizia is overtaken by Yugoslavia, and Rubbia’s family flees to Venice first and then to Udine. As a boy, he is deeply interested in scientific ideas, electrical and mechanical, and reads almost everything he can find on the subject.
Around 1960, he is lured back to Europe, attracted by the newly founded European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), where for the first time the idea of a joint European effort in a field of pure Science was to be tried in practice. There he makes further progress on the study of weak interactions, discovering the beta decay process of the positive pion, and making the first observation of muon capture by free hydrogen.
Carlo Rubbia suggests adapting the SPS to collide protons and antiprotons, in order to search for very heavy particles. The experiment begins in 1981 and, in January 1983, the team succeeds in detecting W particles, which are roughly 100 times as heavy as the proton. These “intermediate vector bosons” carry the weak force between particles, just like photons carry the electromagnetic force between particles. A few months later, the team also detects the even more elusive Z particles.
In 1958, he joins Columbia University as a researcher to gain experience of particle accelerators. There he starts his first experiments on “weak interactions” between particles: The weak force causes radioactive decay in the atomic nucleus and also controls the nuclear fusion in stars.
After high school, he applies to study physics at the Scuola Normale in Pisa but fails the entry exam. He instead starts an engineering course in Milan, but when a successful candidate drops out, Rubbia is offered his place. In Pisa, he helps develop pulsed gas particle detectors and gains his degree with a thesis on cosmic ray experiments.
Carlo Rubbia shares the Nobel Prize in physics with Simon van der Meer (part of the CERN team who developed the antiproton beam) "for their decisive contributions to the large project, which led to the discovery of the field particles W and Z, communicators of weak interaction"