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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.

31. October 2014


When thawing glaciers release pollutants

Media Releases Energy and Environment Environment

As glaciers increasingly melt in the wake of climate change, it is not only the landscape that is affected. Thawing glaciers also release many industrial pollutants stored in the ice into the environment. Now, within the scope of a Swiss National Science Foundation project, researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), Empa, ETH Zurich and the University of Berne have measured the concentrations of a class of these pollutants – polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) – in the ice of an Alpine glacier accurately for the first time.

23. October 2014


Competitive thanks to high pressure

Industrial co-operation

Various basic materials for the chemical industry are manufactured using technology developed by the Ticino based company, Casale. The chemical compounds produced serve to make products like synthetic fertilisers or Plexiglas. In co-operation with PSI, Casale aims to make these production processes even more efficient as basic chemical products are export goods that face stiff competition around the globe. Tiny differences in production costs can be decicive when it comes to which licence a plant operator goes for.

23. October 2014


During winter smog fire places put cars in the shade

Energy and Environment Environment

On winter smog days in Switzerland wood burning is the main source of harmful carbon-containing fine particles. This is revealed by a large-scale Swiss study on fine particle pollution conducted over a five-year period by scientists at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), the University of Bern and ETH Zurich.

19. October 2014


Puzzling new behaviour observed in high-temperature superconductors

Media Releases Matter and Material Materials Research Research Using Synchrotron Light

New effect might be important for emergence of High-Temperature Superconductivity
An international team of researchers has observed a new, unexpected kind of behaviour in copper-based high-temperature superconductors. Explaining the new phenomenon – an unexpected form of collective movement of the electrical charges in the material – poses a major challenge for the researchers. A success in explaining the phenomenon might be an important step toward understanding high-temperature superconductivity in general. The crucial experiments were conducted at the Paul Scherrer Institute.

14. October 2014


A large scale research facility disappears in the woods

SwissFEL SwissFEL Construction

The building of the new PSI large-scale research facility SwissFEL in Würenlingen forest could only enjoy the sunshine for a brief spell: it is now disappearing under a mound of earth. This superstructure is one of the measures taken to integrate the facility as harmoniously as possible into the natural environment.

12. October 2014


Useful for spintronics: Big surprises in a thin surface region

Media Releases Research Using Synchrotron Light Materials Research Matter and Material

The need for ever faster and more efficient electronic devices is growing rapidly, and thus the demand for new materials with new properties. Oxides, especially ones based on strontium titanate (SrTiO3), play an important role here. A collaborative project headed by scientists from the PSI has now revealed properties of strontium titanate that make it an important base material for applications in spintronics.

10. October 2014


Neue Erneuerbare auf Integrationskurs

Energy and Environment

Die Energiestrategie 2050 des Bundes sieht einen starken Ausbau der neuen erneuerbaren Energien wie Solar- und Windenergie vor. Die Integration dieser dezentral und mit zeitlichen Schwankungen produzierten Energie stellt die Stromnetze vor eine grosse Herausforderung. Eine mögliche Lösung besteht darin, Stromüberschüsse, die die Netze überlasten würden, zur Herstellung energiereicher Gase wie Wasserstoff oder Methan zu nutzen. Das als Power-to-Gas bezeichnete Konzept steht im Mittelpunkt der neuen Energy System Integration-Plattform (ESI) am PSI.
This news release is only available in German.

9. October 2014


Foundation Stone Ceremony Marks Scientific Importance of ESS

Large Scale Facilities Research Using Neutrons

Today, several hundred members of the European scientific community gathered at the European Spallation Source (ESS) construction site in Lund, Sweden, for the ESS Foundation Stone Ceremony. The event was held to ‘lay the foundation’ both for the new facility, which has recently begun construction, and for a new generation of science in Europe.

7. October 2014


The last piece of the puzzle

SwissFEL Technology

Julia H. Smith is a postdoctoral fellow working on detectors for the SwissFEL x-ray free electron laser, which can be envisioned as “the eyes” of the new PSI large-scale facility. During her time at PSI, she has a good chance of accompanying “her” detector up to its use at the new facility. “Even more important than witnessing the first experiments at SwissFEL is acquiring new knowledge and skills during my time as a postdoc at PSI.” Smith would like to continue working in the field of detectors and technology development after her postdoc – at a company or at another research institute.

25. September 2014


Giants who control miniscule particles

Large Scale Facilities

Magnets are the unsung heroes in particle accelerators because they keep protons or electrons on track. But such magnets have very little in common with the small ones on the domestic fridge door. Quite a few of the magnets at PSI are heavier and bulkier than the fridge itself, yet despite this they are also masterpieces of precision and control.

23. September 2014

ringzyklotron 1973 tn.jpg

A reliable type from the 1980s

Large Scale Facilities

The source of the proton beam at PSI is a retro-style Cockcroft-Walton linear accelerator. Since 1984 it has been the first acceleration stage for protons which are taken up to around 80 percent of the speed of light by two further ring accelerators. This has resulted in the generation of a significant proton beam over decades, and which has even held the world record as the highest performing beam since 1994 thanks to ongoing retrofitting.

17. September 2014


“Airpocalypse” explained

Media Releases Environment Energy and Environment

The causes of China’s record level fine particulate pollution in winter 2013
At the beginning of 2013 a greyish-brown blanket of smog lay over large areas of China for several months. The fine particle pollution was higher by 1 to 2 orders of magnitude than the levels normally measured in Western Europe and the United States. An international team of researchers under the lead of the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI and the Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of the Sciences revealed the causes of the “airpocalypse”. The study published in the journal Nature also describes what steps are to be taken to prevent an environmental crisis of this kind in the future.

9. September 2014


Energiewende in Reinkultur – in Wädenswil zu bestaunen

Media Releases Energy and Environment

Der am Paul Scherrer Institut PSI entwickelte Prozess der hydrothermalen Methanierung von wässriger Biomasse erreicht einen wichtigen Meilenstein: Dank der Zusammenarbeit im neuen Kompetenzzentrum des Bundes für Bioenergie BIOSWEET konnten Forschende des PSI, der ZHAW, der ETH Lausanne, der Empa und der Hochschule für Technik Rapperswil die technische Machbarkeit der Methanherstellung aus Mikroalgen demonstrieren. Der dazu verwendete Algenbioreaktor sowie die Anlage zur Methanierung der Algen können am 24. September auf dem Campus Grüental der ZHAW in Wädenswil besichtigt werden. Für Medienschaffende gibt es von 14:00 bis 14:30 eine spezielle Führung.
This news release is only available in German.

4. September 2014


New material generated with light

Media Releases Research Using Synchrotron Light Large Scale Facilities Materials Research Matter and Material SwissFEL SwissFEL Experiments

PSI researchers garner experience for SwissFEL experiments
Aided by short laser flashes, researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute have managed to temporarily change a material’s properties to such a degree that they have – to a certain extent –created a new material. This was done using the x-ray laser “LCLS” in California. Once the PSI x-ray laser SwissFEL is up and running, experiments of this kind will also be possible at PSI.

21. August 2014


Jurassic Welsh mammals were picky eaters, study finds

Media Releases Research Using Synchrotron Light

New analyses of tiny fossil mammals from South Wales are shedding light on the function and diets of our earliest ancestors, a team led by researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Leicester report in the journal Nature. The team used CT scanning with synchrotron X-rays at PSI’s Swiss Light Source to reveal in unprecedented detail the internal anatomy of the mammals’ tiny jaws.
Older news can be found in the overview 2014.

For media representatives

Are you a journalist and do you have general questions about PSI? Are you looking for images for an article on a research topic? PSI has an extensive photo archive from which we can send you appropriate material upon request. We will be happy to assist you in your search for scientists who, as neutral experts, will respond to your technical questions. Please get in touch with our contact for media representatives:

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.

Proton Therapy

Treatment for specific cancers at PSI

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