Energy and Environment
Read more at: Research on energy and the environment at the PSI
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
Aerosols are small particles in the atmosphere. They can influence the global climate by way of direct absorption or scattering of solar radiation, or by acting as nuclei for cloud formation. Efforts by scientists to exactly quantify these effects and then improve climate models are impeded by the lack of a global network of aerosol measurement stations. To remedy this situation, researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute to facilitate continuous aerosol measurements at sites where the paucity of data is the greatest.
Chemical reactions will change the nature of the deep repository and the surrounding rock (clay rock); that much is certain. But to what extent and with what impact on safety? Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute are looking to answer this question with the aid of a combination of experiments and computer simulations.
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.
As part of the Energy Strategy 2050 the Swiss government and parliament have decided to increase support for energy research in Switzerland. This includes the setting up of seven interuniversity networked Swiss Competence Centres in Energy Research (SCCERs). In the SCCERs ETH Domain institutions, the universities and the universities of the applied sciences are to join forces with industrial partners to develop new competencies and solutions in the decisive action areas of the shift in energy policy. The Paul Scherrer Institute PSI will act as the leading house in two of the SCCERs à storage and biomass à that have already been given the green light. They will begin their work in 2014.
A novel polymer electrolyte membrane from the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI has demonstrated longer durability in a laboratory test than the best commercially available counterparts. The breakthrough was achieved by modifying a reasonably priced plastic film through radiation activation and subsequent attachment of functional constituents via a grafting reaction. The modified polymer is not only durable à it could also reduce the membrane production costs by 50 to 80 percent. The membrane could be used in applications such as hydrogen fuel cells or electrolysers for hydrogen production from water.
A catalyst made of the noble metal ruthenium supported on a carbon substrate is frequently used industrially. A prime example is the synthesis of ammonia, which, among other things, is involved in the production of nitrogenous fertilisers. Many research groups all over the world are looking to optimise this type of catalyst as it would increase the efficiency of one of the economically most important industrial processes. However, our understanding of how the catalytically active centres in the catalyst develop has been somewhat patchy thus far. Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI can now unveil some fresh insights.
Im Rahmen des Sinergia-Programms fördert der Schweizerische Nationalfonds das dreijährige Forschungsvorhaben REPCOOL. Unter der Leitung von IBM Research à Zürich arbeiten in diesem Projekt Wissenschaftler der ETH Zürich, des Paul Scherrer Instituts in Villigen und der Università della Svizzera italiana in Lugano gemeinsam an der Erforschung eines elektronischen Blutkreislaufs für zukünftige 3D-Computerchips. Vom menschlichen Gehirn inspiriert, entwickeln die Forscher ein Mikrokanalsystem mit einer elektrochemischen Flussbatterie, die 3D-Chipstapel gleichzeitig kühlen und mit Energie versorgen. Ultimatives Ziel ist die Entwicklung eines Supercomputers in PC-Grösse.This news release is only available in German.
How will the world secure its energy supply in 2050 and what are the possible economic, ecological and social implications of different pathways and choices? These questions are answered by researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI in cooperation with the World Energy Council WEC in a study examining two scenarios covering different dimensions of economic, social, policy and technology development. The results of the study, which has now been concluded, will be presented from 13 to 17 October at the WEC’s World Energy Congress in the South Korean town of Daegu
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.
Without computer simulations, the operation of nuclear power stations would be very difficult. Whether it is a question of installing new components or conducting safety tests, virtually everything has to be calculated and analysed on the computer first. At the Laboratory for Reactor Physics and Systems Behaviour of the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI, computational models and methodologies are developed with precisely this in mind. Through this, PSI researchers also act as an independent partner to the national regulatory authority ENSI and contribute thereby to support safe operation of the Swiss nuclear power plants.
The idea of producing fuel for nuclear power stations in form of a package of spheres instead of today’s customary pellets was already born back in the 1960s. There was promise of a subsequent simplification of fuel production and a considerable reduction in the amount of radioactive waste both in the production of the fuel itself and after its use in a nuclear power station. However, the spherical fuel was never implemented as the fast reactors for which it was conceived were never built at a large scale. The Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) has also been involved in the research on spherical fuel in the past. Now several projects partly funded by the EU are currently underway at the PSI again to refine the production of fuel spheres further. This form of fuel could either be used in special plants to reduce waste or in fast generation IV reactors, which in a closed cycle also produce less long-lived waste.
Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) are currently involved in an international project aimed at reconstructing what happened to the reactor units during the nuclear accident at the Japanese nuclear power station, Fukushima Daiichi in March 2011. In particular, the estimate of the core end-state will help the owner of the damaged plant, the Tokyo Electricity Power Company (TEPCO) to plan the removal of components from the reactor containment and the final decontamination. Besides, the exercise is intended to contribute to further refinement of the computer programs used to perform nuclear accident simulations
Five times less platinum: fuel cells could become economically more attractive thanks to novel aerogel catalyst.
Fuel cells that convert hydrogen into power and only produce pure water as a by-product have the potential to lead individual mobility into an environmentally friendly future. The Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) has been researching and developing such low-temperature polymer electrolyte fuel cells for more than 10 years and initial field tests have already demonstrated the successful use of these fuel cells in cars and buses. However, further research is still required to improve the durability and economic viability of the technology. An international team of researchers involving the PSI has now manufactured and characterised a novel nanomaterial that could vastly increase the efficiency and shelf-life of these fuel cells à as well as reduce material costs.
How do radioactive substances move through the host rock in a deep repository for nuclear waste? Researchers from the Diffusion Processes Group in the Laboratory of Waste Management at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) have been investigating. The transport properties of negatively charged radionuclides, which are repelled by the negatively charged surfaces of clay minerals and thus hardly adhere to the rock, are well known. An EU project in which the PSI is also involved is now yielding similar insights into positively charged and therefore highly adherent radionuclides.
The manipulation and examination of irradiated and therefore radioactive objects, be they from nuclear power stations or research facilities, requires strict safety measures. Tests may only be conducted in so-called hot cells, where the radioactivity is hermetically enclosed and shielded behind concrete and lead walls up to 1 metre thick. In the hot cells of the PSI hot lab, the burnt-off fuel rods from the Swiss nuclear power stations are studied from a materials science perspective. The insights gained help nuclear power station operators to optimise the efficiency and safety of their plants. Besides this service, the hot lab is involved in several international research projects.