Shortcut to protein portraits
All living organisms, from bacteria to humans, rely on proteins to perform their vital functions. How these proteins accomplish their tasks depends on their structure. Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute have now devised a novel method to determine the crystal structure of proteins using X-ray light, which could also hasten the development of new drugs in future. The study will be published in the journal Nature Methods on 15 December.
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.
Puzzling new behaviour observed in high-temperature superconductors
New effect might be important for emergence of High-Temperature SuperconductivityAn international team of researchers has observed a new, unexpected kind of behaviour in copper-based high-temperature superconductors. Explaining the new phenomenon à an unexpected form of collective movement of the electrical charges in the material à poses a major challenge for the researchers. A success in explaining the phenomenon might be an important step toward understanding high-temperature superconductivity in general. The crucial experiments were conducted at the Paul Scherrer Institute.
Useful for spintronics: Big surprises in a thin surface region
The need for ever faster and more efficient electronic devices is growing rapidly, and thus the demand for new materials with new properties. Oxides, especially ones based on strontium titanate (SrTiO3), play an important role here. A collaborative project headed by scientists from the PSI has now revealed properties of strontium titanate that make it an important base material for applications in spintronics.
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.
New material generated with light
PSI researchers garner experience for SwissFEL experimentsAided by short laser flashes, researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute have managed to temporarily change a material’s properties to such a degree that they have à to a certain extent àcreated a new material. This was done using the x-ray laser LCLS in California. Once the PSI x-ray laser SwissFEL is up and running, experiments of this kind will also be possible at PSI.
Jurassic Welsh mammals were picky eaters, study finds
New analyses of tiny fossil mammals from South Wales are shedding light on the function and diets of our earliest ancestors, a team led by researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Leicester report in the journal Nature. The team used CT scanning with synchrotron X-rays at PSI’s Swiss Light Source to reveal in unprecedented detail the internal anatomy of the mammals’ tiny jaws.
Insulator makes electrons move in an ordered way
Researchers at the PSI, the EPFL and the Chinese Academy of Science, have proven that the material SmB6 shows all the properties of a so called topological insulator à a material with electric currents flowing along its surface with all of them being polarized. Here, the property is very robust, i.e. the only current that can flow is spin polarized and is not easily destroyed by small irregularities in the structure or composition of the material. Spin polarized currents are necessary for spintronics, electronics using the electrons’ spin.
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.
Sixteen nanometres in 3D
Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI) have devised a method that opens up new scales of tomographic imaging and will thus allow in the future highly resolved measurements of biological and materials science specimens. With the aid of a special prototype instrument at the Swiss Light Source (SLS), they achieved a 3D resolution of sixteen nanometres in a large sample and thus set a new world record in X-ray tomography.
New insight into photosynthesis
The way that algae and plants respond to light has been reinterpreted based on results from recent experiments. Under particular lighting conditions during photosynthesis, the well-ordered stacking and alignment of light-sensitive membranes in the algae are disrupted. There is no significant movement of the membrane embedded light harvesting proteins, which rather become largely inactive. These new findings challenge widely accepted views of how algae respond to light where the light harvesting proteins were thought to move around the membranes.
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
Phase contrast improves mammography
Phase contrast X-ray imaging has enabled researchers at ETH Zurich, the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and the Kantonsspital Baden to perform mammographic imaging that allows greater precision in the assessment of breast cancer and its precursors. The technique could improve biopsy diagnostics and follow-up.
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.
Astral matter from the Paul Scherrer Institute
Processes in stars recreated with isotopes from PSIIsotopes that otherwise only naturally exist in exploding stars à supernovae à are formed at the Paul Scherrer Institute’s research facilities. This enables processes that take place inside the stars to be recreated in the lab. For instance, an international team of researchers used the titanium isotope Ti-44 to study one such process at CERN in Geneva. In doing so, it became evident that it is less effective than was previously believed and the previous theoretical calculations of processes in stars need to be corrected.
Changes to the aggregate state triggered by quantum effects à in physically correct terms, quantum phase transitions à play a role in many astonishing phenomena in solids, such as high-temperature superconductivity. Researchers from Switzerland, Great Britain, France and China have now specifically altered the magnetic structure of the material TlCuCl3 by exposing it to external pressure and varying this pressure. With the aid of neutrons, they were able to observe what happens during a quantum phase transition, where the magnetic structure melts quantum-physically.
Fuel cell know-how from the Paul Scherrer Institute at the core of the SBB minibar
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.
X-rays film inside live flying insects – in 3D
Scientists have used a particle accelerator to obtain high-speed 3D X-ray visualizations of the flight muscles of flies. The team from Oxford University, Imperial College, and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) developed a groundbreaking new CT scanning technique at the PSI’s Swiss Light Source to allow them to film inside live flying insects. The movies offer a glimpse into the inner workings of one of nature’s most complex mechanisms, showing that structural deformations are the key to understanding how a fly controls its wingbeat.