Energy and Environment
Read more at: Research on energy and the environment at the PSI
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
On 4 April 2014 SBB is to launch a new minibar model in its Intercity trains. A fuel cell system including know-how of the Paul Scherrer Institute will also be on board. It will ensure that despite the limited space the minibar will have enough power to brew capuccinos and latte macchiatos, too.
On 28 March 2014 the topping-out ceremony for a new test facility to study energy production from wet biomass was celebrated at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI). The facility housed in a ship container is supposed to produce synthetic biogas from liquid manure, sewage sludge or algae.
Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences joined forces within an EU project to investigate the basic properties of argillaceous rocks in a repository for high-level radioactive waste. As the results reveal, the insights gained so far for Opalinus Clay can be transferred also to the Boda Clay found in Hungary.
With ecoinvent, the Paul Scherrer Institute and its partners at ETH Zurich, ETH Lausanne, Empa and Agroscope have been running the world’s leading database for life cycle inventories for over ten years. The latest ecoinvent version 3 collects new data in areas such as electricity generation, agriculture, transport, mining and chemicals. In the power sector, which is significant for life cycle assessments, the database now covers over 80 per cent of the global production. And technology that has not been considered thus far such as enhanced geothermal systems is to be included in ecoinvent from now on. The result is more accurate ecological assessments of products and services
Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) have showcased a solar-thermal method for extracting zinc oxide, a technologically important reusable material, from zink recycling products under laboratory conditions. The solar product’s purity level exceeds that obtained via the industrially established route
The Lattice-Boltzmann Method was developed in the early 1990s as a calculation approach to solve the Boltzmann equation numerically, i.e. with the aid of computers. Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI have now extended the Lattice-Boltzmann Method’s field of application with a new model that is able to describe more complex processes.Their work opens a window to more realistic computer simulations of many complex technical processes. Applications are expected in the microporous structures of most technical catalysts, diesel particle filters, combustion microreactors or fuel cells