Energy and Environment Research Division
Research at PSI comprises all aspects of human energy use, with the ultimate goal of promoting development towards a sustainable energy supply system. Technologies are being advanced for the utilization of renewable energy sources, low-loss energy storage, efficient conversion, and low emission energy use. Experimental and model-based assessment of these emissions forms the basis of a comprehensive assessment of economic, environmental and social consequences, for both present and future energy supply systems.
Division Head: Prof. Dr. Thomas Justus Schmidt
Highlights & News
Organic Nitrate Contribution to New Particle Formation and Growth in Secondary Organic Aerosols from α-Pinene Ozonolysis
The chemical kinetics of organic nitrate production during new particle formation and growth of secondary organic aerosols (SOA) were investigated using the short-lived radioactive tracer 13N in flow-reactor studies of α-pinene oxidation with ozone. Direct and quantitative measurements of the nitrogen content indicate that organic nitrates accounted for ∼40% of SOA mass during initial particle formation, decreasing to ∼15% upon particle growth to the accumulation-mode size range (>100 nm). Experiments with OH scavengers and kinetic model results suggest that organic peroxy radicals formed by α-pinene reacting with secondary OH from ozonolysis are key intermediates in the organic nitrate formation process
Pb pollution from leaded gasoline in South America in the context of a 2000-year metallurgical history
Exploitation of the extensive polymetallic deposits of the Andean Altiplano in South America since precolonial times has caused substantial emissions of neurotoxic lead (Pb) into the atmosphere; however, its historical significance compared to recent Pb pollution from leaded gasoline is not yet resolved. We present a comprehensive Pb emission history for the last two millennia for South America, based on a continuous, high-resolution, ice core record from Illimani glacier. Illimani is the highest mountain of the eastern Bolivian Andes and is located at the northeastern margin of the Andean Altiplano.
We present a highly time-resolved historical record of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from an Alpine ice core (Fiescherhorn glacier, Switzerland). Introduced in the 1940s, PCBs were widely used industrial chemicals. Because of their persistence they are still found in the environment, long after their production phase-out. The Fiescherhorn ice core record covers the entire time period of industrial use of PCBs, that is, 1940?2002. The total concentration of six PCBs varies from 0.5 to 5 ng/L and reveals a temporal trend, with an 8-fold increase from the early 1940s to the peak value in the 1970s.
Ice-core based assessment of historical anthropogenic heavy metal (Cd, Cu, Sb, Zn) emissions in the Soviet Union
The development of strategies and policies aiming at the reduction of environmental exposure to air pollution requires the assessment of historical emissions. Although anthropogenic emissions from the extended territory of the Soviet Union (SU) considerably influenced concentrations of heavy metals in the Northern Hemisphere, Pb is the only metal with long-term historical emission estimates for this region available, whereas for selected other metals only single values exist.
PSI-researcher Martin Gysel receives prestigious European funding (ERC Consolidator Grant) for his studies on the role of soot in cloud formation and global warming.
Clouds consist of cloud droplets that are formed from tiny particles floating in the atmosphere. How these particles develop, however, largely remains a mystery. The formation of particles from amines and sulphuric acid has now been described for the first time à a milestone in atmospheric research.
The high-energy rechargeable Li-O2 battery has been subject to intensive research worldwide during the past years. The Li-O2 cell mainly comprises a negative (e.g. Li metal) and positive (e.g. porous carbon) electrode separated by an electronically insulating, but Li+ conducting electrolyte layer. In order to study the cell chemistry, a differential electrochemical mass spectrometry setup based on a set of valves, a pressure sensor and a quadrupole mass spectrometer has been developed.
Effect of surface charge density on the affinity of oxide nanoparticles for the vapor–water interface
Using in-situ X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy at the vapor-water interface, the affinity of nanometer-sized silica colloids to adsorb at the interface is shown to depend on colloid surface charge density. In aqueous suspensions at pH 10 corrected Debye-Hückel theory for surface complexation calculations predict that smaller silica colloids have increased negative surface charge density that originates from enhanced screening of deprotonated silanol groups by counterions in the condensed ion layer.