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Fascinating research,
or “what are they actually doing there?”

In these pages, we would like to present the Paul Scherrer Institute to an interested public in a generally comprehensible way. Here you can learn more about the research topics we are working on and the unique large-scale facilities we are using to find answers to a variety of scientific questions.

30. July 2014

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Insulator makes electrons move in an ordered way

Media Releases Research Using Synchrotron Light Materials Research Matter and Material

Researchers at the PSI, the EPFL and the Chinese Academy of Science, have proven that the material SmB6 shows all the properties of a so called topological insulator – a material with electric currents flowing along its surface with all of them being polarized. Here, the property is very robust, i.e. the only current that can flow is spin polarized and is not easily destroyed by small irregularities in the structure or composition of the material. Spin polarized currents are necessary for spintronics, electronics using the electrons’ spin.

14. July 2014

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Hydrogen: a Trojan horse in fuel-rod cladding tubes

Energy and Environment Nuclear Power Plant Safety

In nuclear reactors, water is dissociated at the surface of the hot fuel elements, thereby producing hydrogen. This hydrogen can penetrate the fuel cladding surrounding the actual fuel and weaken it mechanically. Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) have been using neutrons and synchrotron radiation to study how the hydrogen gets into the cladding tube and what impact it can have once inside.

1. July 2014

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A dark state sheds light

Energy and Environment

The molecule dicarbon (C2) is present in all flames where a carbon-containing fuel is combusted. C2 burns visibly, is behind the blue colour inside a candle flame and could also play a key role in the formation of soot. Now, for the first time, scientists from the Paul Scherrer Institute have rendered a previously invisible C2 energy state, a so-called dark state, visible. Not only is its discovery interesting for combustion researchers; it also solves a century-old puzzle in the spectrum of this omnipresent molecule.

25. June 2014

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Tag der offenen SwissFEL-Baustelle

SwissFEL SwissFEL Construction

Vergangenen Sonntag luden das Paul Scherrer Institut PSI und die Arbeitsgemeinschaft EquiFEL Suisse die Einwohnerinnen und Einwohner der Umgebung zum Tag der offenen SwissFEL-Baustelle ein. Rund 600 Interessierte informierten sich an mehreren Stationen über den aktuellen Bau- und Projektstand.
This news release is only available in German.

16. June 2014

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Ice in fuel cells imaged directly for the first time

Media Releases Energy and Environment Research Using Neutrons

Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) have succeeded in imaging the distribution of frozen and liquid water in a hydrogen fuel cell directly for the first time. They applied a new imaging technique that uses successively two beams with different neutron energies to distinguish between areas with liquid water and those with ice extremely reliably. The method therefore opens up the prospect of studying one of the main problems of using fuel cells to power vehicles: ice can clog the pores in the fuel cells and affect their performance. The PSI scientists’ results will be published in the journal Physical Review Letters on 16 June 2014.

11. June 2014

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Sixteen nanometres in 3D

Media Releases Research Using Synchrotron Light

Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI) have devised a method that opens up new scales of tomographic imaging and will thus allow in the future highly resolved measurements of biological and materials science specimens. With the aid of a special prototype instrument at the Swiss Light Source (SLS), they achieved a 3D resolution of sixteen nanometres in a large sample and thus set a new world record in X-ray tomography.

3. June 2014

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Engineering apprentice on the move

Miscellaneous

This year, Rebekka Liefert completes her four-year training as an engineering apprentice at PSI. What she liked about the research institute was that it almost only makes prototypes. The components for the research facilities are usually individual pieces at PSI. Series production didn’t appeal to her; she quickly got bored. “I can’t sit still. That’s why the variety here is perfect for me.”

3. June 2014

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From amateur firework-maker to battery researcher

Energy and Environment

Portrait of PSI doctoral student Patrick Lanz
Patrick Lanz already discovered a fascination with the world of science and technology during his school days. As an electrical engineer, his father had a decent selection of electronics sets for him to tinker with. However, the young Patrick did not merely content himself with remote-controlled cars. He set about systematically disassembling his toys in a quest to find out how they worked. Later, Lanz also began opening small batteries because he wanted to understand “what went on inside” – probably the first step on the path to his present role as a battery researcher.

26. May 2014

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New insight into photosynthesis

Media Releases Biology Research Using Neutrons Large Scale Facilities

The way that algae and plants respond to light has been reinterpreted based on results from recent experiments. Under particular lighting conditions during photosynthesis, the well-ordered stacking and alignment of light-sensitive membranes in the algae are disrupted. There is no significant movement of the membrane embedded light harvesting proteins, which rather become largely inactive. These new findings challenge widely accepted views of how algae respond to light where the light harvesting proteins were thought to move around the membranes.

21. May 2014

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Big building on a millimetre scale

SwissFEL SwissFEL Construction

For the electrons to reach the necessary energy level, their path in the linear accelerator needs to be absolutely straight. Even the slightest bend means a loss of energy, which the comparatively short SwissFEL linear accelerator cannot afford. Consequently, even the earth’s curvature needs to be balanced out while constructing the building, which not only requires state-of-the-art measurement technology, but also continuous monitoring.

16. May 2014

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Cloud formation takes ingredients from the forest

Media Releases Energy and Environment Environment

Scientists know that clouds have a net cooling effect on our planet but the exact magnitude of that cooling effect is not exactly known. A new study by the CLOUD experiment (Cosmics Leaving OUtdoor Droplets) at CERN sheds light on the very first step of cloud formation, thereby contributing to a better understanding of the cloud-climate connection. The study was led by scientists at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and was published on 16 May 2014 in the journal Science

15. May 2014

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Phase contrast improves mammography

Media Releases Medical Science Human Health

Phase contrast X-ray imaging has enabled researchers at ETH Zurich, the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and the Kantonsspital Baden to perform mammographic imaging that allows greater precision in the assessment of breast cancer and its precursors. The technique could improve biopsy diagnostics and follow-up.

13. May 2014

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Unassuming rampant polluters on two wheels

Media Releases Energy and Environment Environment

In some towns small mopeds cause more air pollution than cars

Not cars or trucks, but mopeds with their two-stroke engines are the main source of fine particles and other air contaminants in many towns in Asia, Africa and southern Europe. This is revealed by the study of an international research team headed up by researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI. The reasons for the high emissions are the combustion properties in two-stroke engines and the overly lenient emission requirements for small two-wheelers. The study findings are to be published on 13 May 2014 in the journal Nature Communications.

8. May 2014

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Which aromatic will it be today?

Energy and Environment

A sort of bio-oil can be extracted from lignin, one of the main components of plants, by thermal decomposition for instance. This pyrolysis oil would be a good fuel if it weren’t corrosive as this makes it difficult to store and transport. However, if the acrid oxygen is removed from the oil, valuable organic materials are left behind, aromatics. PSI researchers have looked at how lignin can be directly produced in a targeted manner from lignin with the help of a wide range of catalysts.

15. April 2014

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Diesel particle filter and nitric oxide catalyst all rolled into one

Energy and Environment

Filtering soot and reducing nitric oxide in the same place – engineers have been working on combining these two important tasks of exhaust gas after-treatment in vehicles for a number of years. As researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute now reveal, this is not unrealistic. At any rate, it shouldn’t fail because of soot.

Older news can be found in the overview 2014.



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For the general public

If, after visiting our Website, you would really like to know what our daily work routine is like – come and visit us. In the psi forum visisitor's centre, we welcome adults and teenagers, either individually or in groups. Homepage psi forum

For parties of 12 persons and over, we offer a free-of-charge tour through our large-scale facilities, and for students we have founded the student laboratory iLab. School classes can visit us free of charge for a day, carry out experiments in the laboratory and then see from the large-scale facilities how the scientific principle studied at iLab is applied in routine research. Homepage iLab
Photo on the left: A sample being mounted at the TOMCAT beamline for X-ray tomography, located at the SLS.

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