Laboratory for Synchrotron Radiation and Femtochemistry (LSF)


Excellence in X-ray and VUV spectroscopy and imaging, and their application across scientific disciplines
We are at the forefront of method and instrumentation development for X-ray and VUV spectroscopy in the temporal and spatial domains to gain novel insights into the elemental composition, the chemical state, and reaction dynamics. In collaborations with Swiss and international scientists, we build upon these strengths to pursue state-of-the-art multidisciplinary research projects. We are competent partners for academic and industrial users.

Scientific Highlights

24 November 2016

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Detecting and utilizing minority phases in heterogeneous catalysis

Highly active phases in carbon monoxide oxidation are known, however they are transient in nature. Here, we determined for the first time the structure of such a highly active phase on platinum nanoparticles in an actual reactor.

1 November 2016


Breaking through the false coincidence barrier

The false coincidence background has so far limited the analytical application of PEPICO, photoelectron photoion coincidence. A new photoioin rastering technique has been developed to separate the wheat from the chaff and identify true coincidences based on the ion hit time and position. This expands the dynamic range of the experiment by at least two orders of magnitude, allowing for novel applications to look for reactive intermediates and short lived species in reaction environments.

21 October 2016

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C–H Activation on Co,O Sites: Isolated Surface Sites versus Molecular Analogs

The activation and conversion of hydrocarbons is one of the most important challenges in chemistry. This work shows that isolated Co(II) sites are catalysts for a number of hydrocarbon conversion reactions, such as the dehydrogenation of propane, the hydrogenation of propene, and the trimerization of terminal alkynes. The data are consistent with all of these reactions occurring by a common mechanism, involving heterolytic C–H or H–H activation via a 1,2 addition across a Co–O bond.

4 October 2016

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Kinetic studies of the Pt carbonate-mediated, room-temperature oxidation of carbon monoxide by oxygen over Pt/Al2O3 catalyst

The kinetics involved in novel ambient-temperature mechanism for the catalytic oxidation of carbon monoxide by oxygen over a Pt/Al2O3 catalyst is evaluated within a periodic redox operation paradigm using combined mass spectrometry (MS), diffuse reflectance infrared spectroscopy (DRIFTS), and time-resolved Pt L3-edge XAFS. A high-wavenumber (ca. 1690 cm-1) carbonate species are shown to be associated with a room-temperature redox process occurring in a fraction of the Pt atoms present in the catalyst.

13 September 2016

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Establishing nonlinearity thresholds with ultraintense X-ray pulses

The advent of X-ray free electron lasers (XFELs) is opening the ability to reach extremely high photon numbers within ultrashort X-ray pulse durations and is leading to a paradigm shift in our ability to explore nonlinear X-ray signals.

29 August 2016

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A simple and scalable method for preparation of well-defined chlorine–free iridium oxide nanoparticles active for oxygen evolution reaction (OER) was developed. Operando X-ray absorption spectroscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy indicate that OER activity is strongly related to the presence of iridium hydroxo (Ir–OH) species on the surface of iridium oxide nanoparticles.

4 August 2016

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Low Temperature Activation of Supported Metathesis Catalysts by Organosilicon Reducing Agents

Industrial alkene metathesis processes rely on silica-supported tungsten oxide catalysts, which operate at high temperatures (>350 °C) due to the difficulty in generating active sites (carbenes or metallacyclobutanes). We report here a low temperature activation process of well-defined metal oxo surface species using organosilicon reductants, which generate a large amount of active species at only 70 °C (0.6 active sites/W).

11 April 2016

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Researchers find key to zinc rich plants to combat malnutrition

The diet in many developing countries is lacking zinc, but researchers have just solved the riddle of how to get more zinc into crop seeds. The discovery has been published in Nature Plants, and the research was led by University of Copenhagen.

By Johanne Uhrenholt Kusnitzoff

30 March 2016

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Watching lithium move in battery materials

In order to understand limitations in current battery materials and systematically engineer better ones, it is helpful to be able to directly visualize the lithium dynamics in materials during battery charge and discharge. Researchers at ETH Zurich and Paul Scherrer Institute have demonstrated a way to do this.

7 March 2016

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High-performance thermoelectric nanocomposites from nanocrystal building blocks

Using an assembly of colloidal nanocrystals a Ag-PbS nanocomposite was produced with increased thermoelectic figures of merit up to 1.7K at 850 K. EXAFS spectroscopy at the Ag K-edge was essential to show that Ag does not dissolve in PbS nanoparticles but preserved the individual nanodomains. This reduces the PbS intergrain energy barriers for charge transport
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