Proteins are indispensable building blocks of life. They play a vital role in many biological processes. Researchers have now been able to show how the ultrafast processes by which proteins do their work can be studied with free-electron X-ray lasers such as SwissFEL at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI. Free-electron X-ray lasers generate extremely short and intense pulses of X-ray light. Currently there are just two such facilities in operation, worldwide. The results were published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
The deuteron — just like the proton — is smaller than previously thoughtThe deuteron — one of the simplest atomic nuclei, consisting of just one proton and one neutron — is considerably smaller than previously thought. This new research finding fits with a 2010 study in which, similarly, the proton was measured at the Paul Scherrer Institute and, likewise, a smaller value than expected was found. The result from 2010 formed the basis for what has been known since then as the proton radius puzzle.
Researchers at the PSI have for the first time used a cyclotron to produce the radionuclide scandium-44 in a quantity and concentration as needed for medical treatment. With that, they have achieved the first precondition for scandium-44 to be used one day for medical tests in hospitals.
Researchers at the PSI have developed a detector called POLAR. It is designed to search out and investigate extreme eruptions of energy from the depths of the universe. This coming September, POLAR will be launched into orbit with a Chinese space mission.
Despite its great potential, solar energy still faces one big problem: the sun doesn’t always shine and its energy is hard to store. Now, researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI and the ETH Zurich have unveiled a chemical process that uses the sun’s thermal energy to convert carbon dioxide and water directly into high-energy fuels: a procedure developed on the basis of a ground-breaking material combination of cerium oxide and rhodium.
Researchers at the Swiss Paul Scherrer Institute PSI and ETH Zurich have developed a simple and cost-effective procedure for significantly enhancing the performance of conventional Li-ion rechargeable batteries. Whether in wristwatches, smartphones, laptops or cars, the use of rechargeable batteries will be optimized in all areas of application, considerably extending storage capacity as well as cutting down charging times.
PSI researcher Kurt Ballmer-Hofer is concerned with the question of how tumours could be starved by preventing the development of blood vessels. After 40 years of research that yielded many fundamental insights about the formation of blood vessels, one of the key molecules has been found; further research is expected to enable clinical applications.
As capacities for producing solar and wind energy increase, integrating these into the existing energy system is becoming more of a challenge. The ESI platform is testing methods for successful integration. The answer: storing surplus energy as gas.
Natural-gas vehicles are on the way, and they need catalytic converters for the exhaust too. While work is under way at Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research, to optimise natural-gas engines and catalytic converters, the PSI is specialising in research methods that enable very precise observation of catalytic converters. For this work, the PSI researchers have now developed a universal measurement chamber in which catalytic converters can be studied with a variety of different analytical methods, yet always under the same conditions.
At the PSI, the Heavy Elements Research Group explores the exotic, unstable atoms at the end of the periodic table of elements. The dream: to discover one day the island of stability that could exist beyond the elements charted so far on the chemists' map.
Interview with Oksana ZaharkoNew scientific questions demand ever better experimental equipment. In this interview, PSI researcher Oksana Zaharko reports on the challenges of setting up a new instrument for research with neutrons.
Researchers have shown how fine particles are formed from natural substances in the atmosphere. These findings will improve our knowledge about clouds in the pre-industrial era and thus will contribute to a more accurate understanding of both the past and future evolution of our climate.
The road to a sustainable energy future leads through the integration of new renewable energy sources, from the sun, the wind, or biomass. Using the Energy System Integration or ESI Platform, research and industry can test promising approaches in all their complex connections and interrelations.
At the PSI, the exact structure of proteins is deciphered in the standard way, with X-rays. Now two PSI researchers have used a clever trick to advance this method further: Instead of pinning down the proteins, they are studying them within a levitating drop of liquid.
Forest trees use carbon not only for themselves; they also trade large quantities of it with their neighbours. The extensive carbon trade among trees – even among different species – is conducted via symbiotic fungi in the soil.
Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI are now investigating a new method to channel radioactive substances directly into the nucleus of a cancer cell. Through this approach, the radiation source remains inside the cell and works in a more targeted way, because it gets closer to the cell's genetic information.
Chemists at ETH Zurich and the Paul Scherrer Institute have found a new, direct way to convert gaseous methane into liquid methanol. This offers industry the interesting prospect of using the gas, rather than simply burning it off, as is currently the case.
The Weyl fermion, just discovered in the past year, moves through materials practically without resistance. Now researchers are showing how it could be put to use in electronic components.
A picture-perfect example of how basic research makes concrete contributions to the economy is the company DECTRIS — a PSI spin-off founded in 2006 and already highly successful. The latest development from DECTRIS is a detector called EIGER, which is used for X-ray measurements at large research facilities. There EIGER contributes, among other things, to the search for new drugs.
Measuring the rarity of a particle decayIn the so-called MEG experiment at the PSI, researchers are searching for an extremely rare decay signature from a certain kind of elementary particles known as muons. More precisely, they are quantifying its improbability. According to their latest number, this decay occurs less than once in 2.4 trillion events. By means of this result, theoretical physicists can sort out which of their approaches to describing the universe will hold up against reality.