Energy and Climate
The energy research performed at PSI focuses on processes that can be used in sustainable and safer technologies, ideally with minimal CO2 emissions. The main emphasis is on renewable energy sources. The ESI (Energy System Integration) platform enables research and industry to test solutions for integrating renewables into the existing energy supply. Another focus in this area is the safer use of nuclear energy. These activities are supplemented by analyses giving a comprehensive assessment of energy systems. PSI scientists in the Energy and Environment division study the chemical processes that take place in the atmosphere.
Find out more at: Overview Energy and Climate
Particulate matter from modern gasoline engines damages our lungs
For years, studies have proved that fine dust from petrol engines can damage our health. Modern engine technology does not help, either, as researchers from the University of Bern and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) reveal.
Gasoline from a nanoreactor
Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and ETH Zurich have developed a miniscule chemical reactor in the lab that could one day be used to produce gasoline and diesel more sustainably and cost-effectively than today. By specifically modifying nanometre-sized, porous zeolite crystals, the scientists built a nanoreactor that is able to complete two of the conversion steps for the production of hydrocarbons.
PSI expertise boosts research for the energy transition
Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) are involved in several projects under the new National Research Programme Energy Turnaround (NRP70) of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). The PSI experts tackle issues such as particle emissions from wood heating systems, the holistic evaluation of energy systems and the production of semiconductor components for novel transformers.
Keeping geothermal energy on the table
A study by the Centre for Technology Assessment TA-Swiss, coordinated by the Paul Scherrer Institute, recommends further pursuing deep geothermal energy in Switzerland. The energy resources underground are vast, environmentally friendly to extract and available around the clock, the authors conclude. The earthquake risk and the cost of electricity production, which are still too high, however, remain challenges that society needs to weigh up against the advantages of deep geothermal energy.
Biomasse als Stütze der Energiewende
Mit 80 Teilnehmerinnen und Teilnehmern fand am 2. Dezember am Paul Scherrer Institut PSI die erste Jahreskonferenz des Kompetenzzentrums des Bundes für Bioenergie (SCCER BIOSWEET) statt. Das im Rahmen des Aktionsplans Energieforschung Schweiz gegründete Kompetenzzentrum definierte in der Tagung die Ziele, Strategien und Positionierung der Bioenergie-Forschung vor dem Hintergrund der neuen schweizerischen Energiepolitik.This news release is only available in German.
Das Kompetenzzentrum Speicherung zieht nach einem Jahr Bilanz
Am vergangenen 4. November fand am Paul Scherrer Institut das erste Jahressymposium des Kompetenzzentrum des Bundes für Forschung zu Strom- und Wärmespeicherung (SCCER Heat and Electricity Storage) statt. Vertreter aus den beteiligten Forschungsgruppen sowie aus Industrieunternehmen mit einem Bezug zum Thema Speicherung berichteten in ihren Vorträgen über die jüngsten Fortschritte auf dem Gebiet der Wärme- und Stromspeicherung in der Schweiz. Die Tagung zeigte die Intensität der Transformationen, die von der Energiestrategie 2050 in Gang gesetzt worden sind.This news release is only available in German.
When thawing glaciers release pollutants
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 à polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) à in the ice of an Alpine glacier accurately for the first time.
During winter smog fire places put cars in the shade
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.
New Renewables on integration course
The Swiss government’s Energy Strategy 2050 includes a significant expansion of renewable energy such as solar and wind power. The integration of this electric energy, which is produced in a decentralised way and with temporal fluctuations, poses a major challenge for power grids. One possible solution involves using the electricity surplus that would otherwise overload the grid for the production of gases such as hydrogen or methane. The electric energy would thus be stored temporarily in form of chemical energy. These gaseous energy carriers can be converted back into electricity, heat or kinetic energy (in gas engines) at a later date as and when needed. Dubbed power to gas, the concept is the focus of the new Energy System Integration (ESI) Platform at PSI.
The causes of China's record level fine particulate pollution in winter 2013At 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.
Energiewende in Reinkultur – in Wädenswil zu bestaunen
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.
What attacks on oil pipelines have in common with epidemics
How susceptible is the global energy infrastructure to attacks by non-state actors? Has the number of attacks on this infrastructure actually increased of late? Which regions of the world are especially vulnerable? And which tactics do the attackers use? Scientists are looking to find the answers to these and other related questions with the aid of a database developed by researchers from the Center of Security Studies at ETH Zurich in collaboration with the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI.
Hydrogen: a Trojan horse in fuel-rod cladding tubes
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.
A dark state sheds light
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.
Ice in fuel cells imaged directly for the first time
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.
From amateur firework-maker to battery researcher
Portrait of PSI doctoral student Patrick LanzPatrick 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 à probably the first step on the path to his present role as a battery researcher.
Cloud formation takes ingredients from the forest
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
Unassuming rampant polluters on two wheels
In some towns small mopeds cause more air pollution than carsNot 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.
Which aromatic will it be today?
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.
Diesel particle filter and nitric oxide catalyst all rolled into one
Filtering soot and reducing nitric oxide in the same place à 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.