Research with muons
With the high-intensity proton accelerator HIPA, the Paul Scherrer Institute generates elementary particles to clarify how the universe is structured. Using pions, muons, and neutrons, the researchers conduct experiments to test the standard model of particle physics.
If you make electronic components smaller, they unfortunately get hotter. Also, we will soon reach the limit of technically feasible miniaturisation. At PSI, Gabriel Aeppli and Christian Rüegg are working on fundamentally new, physical solutions for better computers and data storage devices.
Materials for future electronics can be studied with muons. In this interview, PSI researchers Alex Amato and Thomas Prokscha explain the special characteristics of these elementary particles.
For Aldo Antognini, physics and conviviality are in the bloodPSI researcher Aldo Antognini has received more than 2.2 million Swiss francs from the EU for his latest experiment. He wants to find out how magnetism is distributed in the proton. The particle physicist will be able to apply not only his scientific and technical talents, but his social flair as well.
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.
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.
What does a physicist do when his experiment needs an extremely precise time measurement? So precise that existing electronics cannot help him? A scientist from the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI simply decided to develop his own solution. The result is called DRS4, a high-precision electronic chip that could unlock the physics of our entire universe. As an additional benefit, the chip is already helping doctors to localise brain tumours with great accuracy.
Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) created a synthetic material out of 1 billion tiny magnets. Astonishingly, it now appears that the magnetic properties of this so-called metamaterial change with the temperature, so that it can take on different states; just like water has a gaseous, liquid and a solid state.
For the first time, an international research team has demonstrated how to generate magnetism in metals that aren’t naturally magnetic, such as copper. The discovery could help develop novel magnets for a wide range of technical applications. Crucial measurements to understand this phenomenon were carried out at PSI à the only place where magnetic processes inside materials can be studied in sufficient detail.
Materials research, particle physics, molecular biology, archaeology à for the last forty years, the Paul Scherrer Institute’s large-scale proton accelerator has made top-flight research possible in a number of different fields.
A very rare process in nature should best decide on how we should describe our universe in the future. It is the particular decay of a particular type of elementary particle: the muon. These particles are short-lived and decay into a variety of other particles. According to one theoretical model, a very particular decay process is practically forbidden, whereas according to another it should be allowed. Which theory is correct? By observing many hundreds of trillions of muon decays very precisely, physicists at the Paul Scherrer Institut have come a step closer to solving this puzzle. They have now published their results in the journal Physical Review Letters.
Muons à unstable elementary particles à provide scientists with important insights into the structure of matter. They provide information about processes in modern materials, about the properties of elementary particles and the nature of our physical world. Many muon experiments are only possible at the Paul Scherrer Institute because of the unique intense muon beams available here.
An international team of scientists confirmed the surprisingly small value of the proton radius with laser spectroscopy of exotic hydrogen. The experiments were carried out at PSI which is the only research institute in the world providing the necessary amount of muons for the production of the exotic hydrogen atoms made up of a muon and a proton.
An international research team has determined with a high level of accuracy, how the proton participates in the weak interaction à one of the fundamental forces of nature. Their results confirm the predictions of the Standard Model of particle physics. The experiment observed the probability of muon capture by protons à a process governed by the weak interaction. The experiment was conducted at the Paul Scherrer Institute, the only institute in the world with an accelerator capable of generating enough muons for carrying out this project in a realistic timeframe.
Zwei Experimente mit massgeblicher Beteiligung von Forschern des Paul Scherrer Instituts PSI liefern wichtige Ergebnisse bei der Suche nach der richtigen Beschreibung der Welt der kleinsten Teilchen. In den Experimenten haben die Physiker nach sehr seltenen Teilchenzerfällen gesucht. In beiden Fällen konnte der gesuchte Zerfall nicht beobachtet werden wodurch bestimmte Modelle der Teilchenphysik ausgeschlossen werden konnten.This news release is only available in German.
Materialforschung in neuer DimensionViele Materialien haben eine spezielle kristalline Struktur à ihre Atome sind übereinander in Schichten angeordnet. Ein deutsch-schweizerisches Forscherteam hat zum ersten Mal präzise beobachtet, wie die physikalischen Eigenschaften einer Substanz von der Zahl dieser Schichten abhängen. Dass sich die physikalischen Charakteristika nun auch auf diese Weise kontrollieren lassen, eröffnet neue Möglichkeiten, Stoffe zu identifizieren, aus denen die Computerchips der Zukunft gemacht sein könnten.This news release is only available in French and German.
A new measurement of the muon lifetime à the most precise determination of any lifetime à provides a high-accuracy value for a crucial parameter determining the strength of weak nuclear force. The experiments were performed by an international research team at the accelerator facility of the Paul Scherrer Institute.
Researchers have shown that a magnetically polarised current can be manipulated by electric fields. This important discovery opens up the prospect of simultaneously processing and storing data on electrons held in the molecular structure of computer chips à combining computer memory and processing power on the same chip. This may allow for the development of new devices with high power efficiency and reduced weight.
The proton à one of the smallest building-blocks of all matter à is even smaller than had previously been assumed. This discovery is the result of experiments carried out at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Villigen, Switzerland, by an international research team.
Neutrons, synchrotron light and muons are very useful for researchers in a variety of disciplines. Using these probes, we can determine the structure of crystals, they help us understand magnetic processes, or they can reveal the structures of biological materials. However, producing these probes is so difficult that most research groups will not have a neutron, muon or synchrotron light at their own scientific centre.