Large Research Facilities
Sometimes, one needs unusually large pieces of equipment to look at the smallest of objects – because only these large machines or facilities can generate the
probes that are needed to examine matter in such a way that the information being sought can be obtained. PSI maintains a number of such facilities, making them available as a service for other institutions, but also using them for its own research. These facilities are unique within Switzerland, and PSI is the only location in the world for some of the facilities
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PSI researchers simulate and model large-scale research facilities as well as experiments, for example, in the materials and biological sciences. Andreas Adelmann, head of PSI's Laboratory for Scientific Computing and Modelling, explains how they do it.
Researchers in PSI's Laboratory for Scientific Computing and Modelling solve the most complex problems through a combination of theory, modelling, and high-performance computing. With powerful computers, they simulate the smallest molecules or large-scale research facilities.
During investigations of tiny structures with large-scale research facilities, huge amounts of data accumulate at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI. This data is archived at the CSCS supercomputer centre in Lugano, and the researchers use the supercomputer there for their simulations and modelling.
The Swiss Light Source SLS is set to undergo an upgrade in the coming years: SLS 2.0. The renovation is made possible by the latest technologies and will create a large-scale research facility that will meet the needs of researchers for decades to come.
Using the Swiss Light Source SLS, PSI researchers have recorded a molecular energy machine in action and thus revealed how energy production at cell membranes works. For this purpose, they developed a new investigative method that could make the analysis of cellular processes significantly more effective than before.
A team with three researchers from the ETH Domain has been awarded a prestigious EU grant. Today, they received the contract signed by the EU confirming the extraordinary 14 million euros funding. With it, they will investigate quantum effects which could become the backbone of future electronics.
How do dye-sensitised solar cells work, and what's behind the brilliant new mobile phone displays? The ultrashort X-ray pulses at SwissFEL reveal the chemical reactions that take place inside these devices and could help to make them even more efficient and cost-effective.
The electronics industry expects a novel high-performance transistor made of gallium nitride to offer considerable advantages over present-day high-frequency transistors. Yet many fundamental properties of the material remain unknown. Now, for the first time, researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI have observed electrons while they were flowing in this promising transistor. For that they used one of the world's best sources of soft X-rays at PSI's Swiss Light Source SLS.
Data storage devices based on novel materials are expected to make it possible to record information in a smaller space, at higher speed, and with greater energy efficiency than ever before. Movies shot with the X-ray laser show what happens inside potential new storage media, as well as how the processes by which the material switches between two states can be optimised.
With the X-ray laser SwissFEL, researchers at PSI want to produce movies of biomolecules in action. This can reveal how our eyes function or how new drugs work.
The years of careful planning and construction have paid off: At the newest large-scale research facility of the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI – the X-ray free-electron laser SwissFEL – the first experiment has been carried out successfully. With that, two goals have been achieved: First, a new scientific result is already expected. Second, the interaction of the many individual components of the highly complex facility is being optimised.
An X-ray free-electron laser (XFEL) is capable of visualizing extremely fast structural and electronic processes. Pilot experiments will take place at the PSI's Swiss Free-Electron Laser (SwissFEL) from the end of 2017 on. Two current publications in Science and Nature Communications demonstrate the kind of outstanding scientific work that is enabled by such facilities. The work was carried out at the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) in California. Two of the leading authors behind these studies have now relocated to the PSI in order to share their expertise as SwissFEL expands its capabilities.
As fundamental building blocks of matter, protons are part of all the things that surround us. At the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI, though, they step out of their usual role and are deployed to generate other particles, namely neutrons and muons, which are then used to study materials. But for that, the protons first have to be accelerated. An important role in this is played by a three-stage accelerator facility, in the middle of which stands the accelerator known as Injector 2.
The company Daetwyler made the undulators for the X-ray free-electron laser SwissFEL of the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI, to a precision of one-tenth of the width of a hair.
Whether they study materials for the electronics of the future, batteries, or swords from the Bronze Age — for 20 years researchers from a range of disciplines have been using the Swiss Spallation Neutron Source SINQ of the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI for their investigations. At a symposium on 18 April, researchers looked back on the facility's successes and presented plans for modernisation.
This year the first pilot experiments are starting at the X-ray free-electron laser SwissFEL. The X-ray light generated by SwissFEL will enable a broad spectrum of experiments. Beginning in 2020, a second beamline will provide for a still greater variety.
Today, on 5 December 2016, the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI held an inauguration ceremony for its new large-scale research facility SwissFEL, with Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, President of the Swiss Confederation, in attendance.
Physicists at the PSI’s large-scale research facilities are thinking beyond the Nobel Prize theories
This year’s Nobel Prize for Physics goes to David Thouless, Duncan Haldane, and Michael Kosterlitz. The Academy also cited, in its background report, experiments carried out by Michel Kenzelmann, who today is a laboratory head at the PSI. He and other researchers at the PSI continue to do experiments based on the theories now honoured by the Nobel Prize.
SwissFEL building, 24 August 2016: In the control room above the beam tunnel of the X-ray free-electron laser SwissFEL, the atmosphere is intense and focussed. Marco Pedrozzi’s team has big plans for this late August afternoon. The last adjustments have been made — it’s time to press the big button and start up the electron source. The goal: SwissFEL should generate its first electrons. A report.
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.