Fascinating research, or
In these pages, we would like to present the Paul Scherrer Institute to an interested public in a generally comprehensible way. Here you can learn more about the research topics we are working on and the unique large research facilities we are using to find answers to a variety of scientific questions.
what are they actually doing there?
The Laboratory for Energy Systems Analysis at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI is investigating how Switzerland’s electricity supply might look, up to the year 2050, under a variety of boundary conditions. On the basis of their calculations, the lab’s researchers are able to generate insights on possible future developments of the energy sector, for example, determine how an ambitious reduction in CO2 emissions could be achieved at the lowest possible cost.
Until now, the onset of copper production in South America was still unclear. Hardly any written records or artefacts from the early high cultures in Peru, Chile, and Bolivia have been preserved. Now, however, researchers of the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI in Villigen (Switzerland) have tracked down the evidence. Through analysis of ice from the Illimani glacier in the Bolivian Andes, they found out that copper was being mined and smelted in South America since around 700 BC.
Martin Ostermaier wanted to break out of the comfort zone of science. Now, instead of pipettes, the biochemist is dealing with investors and patent law.
Within Switzerland’s bio-waste a huge amount of precious energy is hidden. That’s because valuable methane, the main constituent of natural gas, can be obtained from it. With a technology developed at PSI, the yield of methane from bio-waste could be increased considerably in the future. A long-term test conducted in cooperation with Energie 360° at the Werdhölzli fermentation and wastewater treatment plant is expected to advance this technology further along its path to industrial use.
At the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI, cancer patients receive a treatment that is unique in Switzerland: proton therapy. This state-of-the-art form of radiation therapy against cancer has major advantages, compared to conventional irradiation, in terms of effectiveness and side-effects. The PSI has its own Center for Proton Therapy dedicated to this special treatment. Its pioneering work has not only helped several thousand patients, but also has fundamentally changed proton therapy worldwide.
Eighty percent of all products of the chemical industry are manufactured with catalytic processes. Catalysis is also indispensable in energy conversion and treatment of exhaust gases. Industry is always testing new substances and arrangements that could lead to new and better catalytic processes. Researchers of the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI in Villigen and ETH Zurich have now developed a method for improving the precision of such experiments, which may speed up the search for optimal solutions.
A new material could become the basis for future data storage devices, since it may enable significant reductions in energy demands in comparison to present-day hard drives. It is a material from the class of so-called magnetoelectric multiferroics, exhibiting the necessary magnetic properties even at room temperature.
Atmospheric scientist Julia Schmale is starting out on a three-month research cruise around the Antarctic. There she will be searching for the cleanest air still to be found on our planet.
At the PSI, researchers work with radioactivity every day in order to develop advanced treatment methods for patients. Naturally, they take special safety precautions working with a material that decays. It's a race against time. To make sure everything functions smoothly, a dedicated work group takes care of the infrastructure.
Doctors had discovered, behind Gabi Meier’s right eye, a tumour that surrounded the optic nerve. Only at the PSI was there still one possibility to treat the tumour in such a way as to preserve neighbouring structures and the eye.
A few months after the proton treatment was over, I realised that I could see more and more,she said in an interview. “Just dimly, it’s true, but I could see! That was sensational!”
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.
In most cases, electricity is generated when water is heated and transformed into vapour. Vapour bubbles in the water play a decisive role in this process. Using computer simulation, researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute have succeeded in representing the behaviour of vapour bubbles – and in making their performance more calculable.
On 25.11.1996, at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI, the world’s first cancer patient was treated with a new irradiation method: the so-called spot-scanning technique for proton beams. What’s special about it: The beam has its effect only at the depth where the tumour is located; healthy tissue above and below it is preserved. The method, developed by PSI researchers, was a breakthrough at the time and quickly became a successful product.
Clouds consist of tiny droplets. These droplets form when water condenses around so-called aerosols – small particles in the atmosphere. To understand how in turn aerosols come into existence scientists have now created a comprehensive computer model simulation based on profound experimental data. This simulation revealed that in addition to sulphuric acid, two other substances are crucially involved in the formation of aerosols: organic compounds and ammonia. These results have now been published in the renowned journal Science.
Interview with Daniel Grolimund
At the Swiss Light Source SLS, researcher Daniel Grolimund is responsible for a beamline where the arrangement of chemical bonds in different objects can be determined. These capabilities prove valuable to researchers in the most diverse disciplines: to battery researchers as well as biologists, archeologists, and many more. In this interview Grolimund talks about the variety of topics and the challenges that come with this diversity.
For media representativesAre you a journalist and do you have general questions about PSI? Are you looking for images for an article on a research topic? PSI has an extensive photo archive from which we can send you appropriate material upon request. We will be happy to assist you in your search for scientists who, as neutral experts, will respond to your technical questions. Please get in touch with our contact for media representatives:
For the general publicIf, after visiting our Website, you would really like to know what our daily work routine is like – come and visit us. In the psi forum visisitor's centre, we welcome adults and teenagers, either individually or in groups. Homepage psi forum visisitor's centre
For parties of 12 persons and over, we offer a free-of-charge tour through our large research facilities, and for students we have founded the student laboratory iLab. School classes can visit us free of charge for a day, carry out experiments in the laboratory and then see from the large research facilities how the scientific principle studied at iLab is applied in routine research. Homepage student laboratory iLab