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
Energy Briefing Event 2022
On June 28th, 2022, the Energy Divisions (ENE and NES) at PSI hosted their first Energy Briefing Event at the Kursaal in Bern. Knowledgeable voices from industry, research and government shared insights in a dialogue on the feasibility of the Net Zero goal and what next steps are required to achieve this collectively.
A big thank you to Daniela Decurtins (GazEnergy), Particia Sandmeier (Hitachi Energy), Martin Naef (ABB), Pascal Previdoli (BFE), Thomas Schmidt (PSI), Christian Verhoeven (GE), Peter Richner (Empa), Andreas Pautz (PSI) and our Moderator Stephan Lendi for their valuable contributions and insights!
Highlights & News
Recent increase in black carbon concentrations from a Mt. Everest ice core spanning 1860–2000 AD
A Mt. Everest ice core spanning 1860à2000 AD and analyzed at high resolution for black carbon (BC) using a Single Particle Soot Photometer demonstrates strong seasonality, with peak concentrations during the winter‐spring, and low concentrations during the summer monsoon season. BC concentrations from 1975à2000 relative to 1860à1975 have increased approximately threefold, indicating that BC from anthropogenic sources is being transported to high elevation regions of the Himalaya.
The nature of nitrate at the ice surface
Trace contaminants such as strong acids have been suggested to affect the thickness of the quasi-liquid layer at the ice/air interface, which is at the heart of heterogeneous chemical reactions between snowpacks or cirrus clouds and the surrounding air. We used X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and electron yield near edge X-ray absorption fine structure (NEXAFS) spectroscopy at the Advanced Light Source (ALS) to probe the ice surface in the presence of HNO3 at 230 K.
The mass concentration of volcanic ash from Iceland in European airspace
Data of the Paul Scherrer Institute from the High-Alpine Research Station Jungfraujoch yield important information.The eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland has stalled flight traffic in large parts of Europe. Decision makers had to base their decisions mainly on model calculations for the volcanic plume dispersion. How dangerous is this volcanic ash layer for planes?
The competition between organics and bromide at the aqueous solution – air interface as seen from ozone uptake kinetics and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy
A more detailed understanding of the heterogeneous chemistry of halogenated species in the marine boundary layer is required. Here, we studied the reaction of ozone (O3) with NaBr solutions in presence and absence of citric acid (C6H8O7) under ambient conditions. Citric acid is used as a proxy for oxidized organic material present at the ocean surface or in sea spray aerosol.
News from the smog chamber: mechanisms of particle formation in the atmosphere unveiled
Up to the present time, the nucleation or new formation of particles in the atmosphere has been a great enigma. Until recently, research was based on the assumption that sulphuric acid played the central role in particle formation. However, laboratory experiments and field tests have consistently provided conflicting results. In the lab, considerably higher concentrations of sulphuric acid are required for nucleation to take place than in the atmosphere itself. Now scientists from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) have found out the cause for these conflicting results from their smog chamber. These findings will advance climate research to a significant degree.
Mystery solved: how fine particulates are formed in the air
Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute, the University of Colorado and 29 other research institutions in various countries have investigated the composition of the organic constituents of the fine particulates found in various regions of the world, and have identified the original substances from which they are formed in each case. For the first time ever, this has enabled them to explain the role played by the individual components of emissions in the development of fine particulates.
Vibrational Spectra of Adsorbates from DFT
The hydrolysis of isocyanic acid was studied experimentally and theoretically and a reaction mechanism on different catalysts was established. The decreasing NOx emission limits for diesel vehicles impel the further development of the existing NOx deactivation technologies, particularly the selective catalytic reduction (SCR) of nitrogen oxides with urea. In the urea-SCR process, urea is injected into the hot exhaust gas, where it thermally decomposes into isocyanic acid (HNCO) and ammonia.