Catching proteins in the act
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 too poses a mystery
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.
Hitching a ride to gamma-ray bursts
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.
Rechargeable batteries that last longer and recharge more rapidly
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.
Present-day measurements yield insights into clouds of the past
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.
Experiment in a hovering droplet
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.
Using methane rather than flaring it
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.
New particle could form the basis of energy-saving electronics
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.
From the Higgs boson to new drugs
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.
Five hundred thousand times less likely than winning the lottery
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.
Transport von aufgelösten Plutoniumlager des Bundes in die USA ist erfolgt
Im Januar und Februar 2016 wurden unter strengen Sicherheitsvorkehrungen rund 20kg Plutonium im Eigentum des Bundes in die USA transportiert. Es handelt sich dabei um Material, das seit den 1960er Jahren auf dem Areal des heutigen Paul Scherrer Instituts (PSI) gelagert worden war. Das Plutonium stammte aus wiederaufbereiteten Brennstäben des von 1960 bis 1977 betriebenen Forschungsreaktors Diorit. Der Bundesrat beschloss 2014 im Rahmen des Nuclear Security Summit-Prozesses, das Plutoniumlager aufzulösen und damit zur weltweiten Sicherung von Nuklearmaterial beizutragen.This news release is only available in French and German.
A micrometer-sized model of the Matterhorn
Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute have produced large numbers of detailed models of the Matterhorn, each one less than a tenth of a millimetre in size. With this, they demonstrated how 3-D objects so delicate could be mass-produced. Materials whose surface is covered with a pattern of such tiny 3-D structures often have special properties, which could for example help to reduce the wear and tear of machine parts.
Probing what sets the heart racing
New insights into the workings of important drug receptorsMany medical drugs operate on specific receptors located in the outer walls of our body’s cells. One of these is called the beta-1 adrenergic receptor. Among other things, it is responsible for palpitation, the racing pulse that we feel with stage fright or infatuation. How it transmits signals to the cellular interior can now be revealed in detail. These findings could help scientists better understand many drugs' mode of action.
Slowed down current could point the way to energy-saving computers
Computers and other electronic devices account for a substantial portion of worldwide energy use. With today’s technologies, it is not possible to reduce this energy consumption significantly any further; chips in the energy-saving electronics of the future will hence have to be made from novel materials. Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI have now found important clues in the search for such materials.
Reappointment of the Directors of PSI and WSL
On application of the ETH Board, the Federal Council reappointed the Director of the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI, Joël Mesot, and the Director of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, Konrad Steffen, for another four years on 20 January 2016. Joël Mesot’s third term of office will start on 1 August 2016, Konrad Steffen’s second term of office on 1 July 2016.
Neutrons reveal distribution of flux-tube islands
Usually, superconductors expel magnetic fields. In type II superconductors, however, thin channels – so-called flux tubes – are formed. The magnetic field is guided through these tubes while the rest of the material remains field-free and superconducting. In the metal niobium, the flux tubes bunch together into small islands that create complex patterns similar to those found in other fields of nature. A team of researchers from PSI and TU München were the first to conduct neutron experiments to study these patterns in niobium and determine the distribution of the islands in detail.
3D nanostructure of a bone made visible
Bones are made up of tiny fibres that are roughly a thousand times finer than a human hair. Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI have developed a new computer-based algorithm with which they were able to visualize the localised order and alignment of these nanostructures inside an entire piece of bone for the first time.
concrete disease solved
When bridges, dam walls and other structures made of concrete are streaked with dark cracks after a few decades, the culprit is the so-called the concrete disease. Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI and Empa have now solved the structure of the material produced in these cracks at atomic level - and have thereby discovered a previously unknown crystalline arrangement of the atoms.
Put in perspective
Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI have succeeded in using commercially available camera technology to visualise terahertz light. In doing so, they are enabling a low-cost alternative to the procedure available to date, whilst simultaneously increasing the comparative image resolution by a factor of 25. The special properties of terahertz light make it potentially advantageous for many applications. At PSI, it will be used for the experiments on the X-ray free-electron laser SwissFEL.