In the first half of the 19th century, a series of large volcanic eruptions in the tropics led to a temporary global cooling of Earth's climate. That Alpine glaciers grew and subsequently receded again during the final phase of the so-called Little Ice Age was due to a natural process. This has now been proven by PSI researchers on the basis of ice cores.
PSI researchers have developed an experimental chamber in which they can recreate atmospheric processes and probe them with unprecedented precision, using X-ray light from the Swiss Light Source SLS. In the initial experiments, they have studied the production of bromine, which plays an essential role in the decomposition of ozone in the lower layers of the atmosphere. In the future, the new experiment chamber will also be available for use by researchers from other scientific fields.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Forest trees use carbon not only for themselves; they also trade large quantities of it with their neighbours. The extensive carbon trade among trees – even among different species – is conducted via symbiotic fungi in the soil.
30. July 2015Energy and Environment Environment
In a deep geological repository, low and intermediate level radioactive waste from nuclear applications is solidified by cementitious materials for several thousand years. Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have now demonstrated how cement limits the mobility of those radioactive substances. The new findings improve our understanding of the processes involved in this early phase of deep geological disposal.
29. June 2015Media Releases Environment Energy and Environment
For years, studies have proved that fine dust from petrol engines can damage our health. Modern engine technology does not help, either, as researchers from the University of Bern and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) reveal.
6. March 2015Media Releases Environment
Until it was banned, leaded gasoline dominated the manmade lead emissions in South America
Leaded gasoline was a larger emission source of the toxic heavy metal lead than mining in South America – even though the extraction of metals from the region’s mines historically released huge quantities of lead into the environment. Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI and the University of Bern have discovered evidence of the dominance of leaded gasoline based on measurements in an ice core from a Bolivian glacier. The scientists found that lead from road traffic in the neighbouring countries polluted the air twice as heavily as regional mining from the 1960s onwards. The study is to be published in the journal Science Advances on 6 March 2015.
31. October 2014Media Releases Energy and Environment Environment
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 – polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) – in the ice of an Alpine glacier accurately for the first time.
23. October 2014Energy and Environment Environment
On winter smog days in Switzerland wood burning is the main source of harmful carbon-containing fine particles. This is revealed by a large-scale Swiss study on fine particle pollution conducted over a five-year period by scientists at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), the University of Bern and ETH Zurich.
17. September 2014Media Releases Environment Energy and Environment
The causes of China's record level fine particulate pollution in winter 2013
At 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.
16. May 2014Media Releases Energy and Environment Environment
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
13. May 2014Media Releases Energy and Environment Environment
In some towns small mopeds cause more air pollution than cars
Not 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.
21. March 2014Energy and Environment Environment
Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences joined forces within an EU project to investigate the basic properties of argillaceous rocks in a repository for high-level radioactive waste. As the results reveal, the insights gained so far for Opalinus Clay can be transferred also to the Boda Clay found in Hungary.
7. March 2014Energy and Environment Environment
With ecoinvent, the Paul Scherrer Institute and its partners at ETH Zurich, ETH Lausanne, Empa and Agroscope have been running the world’s leading database for life cycle inventories for over ten years. The latest ecoinvent version 3 collects new data in areas such as electricity generation, agriculture, transport, mining and chemicals. In the power sector, which is significant for life cycle assessments, the database now covers over 80 per cent of the global production. And technology that has not been considered thus far such as enhanced geothermal systems is to be included in ecoinvent from now on. The result is more accurate ecological assessments of products and services
20. January 2014Energy and Environment Environment
Aerosols are small particles in the atmosphere. They can influence the global climate by way of direct absorption or scattering of solar radiation, or by acting as nuclei for cloud formation. Efforts by scientists to exactly quantify these effects and then improve climate models are impeded by the lack of a global network of aerosol measurement stations. To remedy this situation, researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute to facilitate continuous aerosol measurements at sites where the paucity of data is the greatest.
17. December 2013Media Releases Energy and Environment Environment
PSI-researcher Martin Gysel receives prestigious European funding (ERC Consolidator Grant) for his studies on the role of soot in cloud formation and global warming.
6. October 2013Media Releases Energy and Environment Environment
Clouds consist of cloud droplets that are formed from tiny particles floating in the atmosphere. How these particles develop, however, largely remains a mystery. The formation of particles from amines and sulphuric acid has now been described for the first time – a milestone in atmospheric research.
23. May 2013Energy and Environment Environment
Household waste always used to end up left untreated in landfills, and the effects of this practice are well-known: these waste disposal sites were quite often ecological "death zones". With the incineration of municipal waste, there was some mitigation of this problem: despite the overall increase in quantities of waste, the areas claimed by landfill have been limited in recent decades thanks to waste recycling and incineration. However, waste incineration remains far from a panacea. Some combustion products that are already present in the burnt materials or that arise just during the combustion process itself are harmful to human health and the environment and some of them still find their way out of waste incineration plants and into landfill sites as their final destination.
10. May 2013Energy and Environment Environment
Megacities are often perceived by the public to be major sources of air pollution, which affect their surroundings as well. However, recent studies show that the environmental credentials of cities with over one million inhabitants are not so bad after all. An international team of researchers, including scientists from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), has now confirmed, on the basis of aerosol measurements carried out in Paris, that so-called post-industrial cities affect the air quality of their immediate surroundings far less than might be thought.
27. February 2013Energy and Environment Environment
Ice and snow have fundamental significance for our climate. Generally speaking, one assumes that science knows everything that is important about such everyday phenomena. Yet, as soon as one looks at the whole at the molecular level, many questions remain unanswered. This knowledge is essential for predicting the future of our planet. Thorsten Bartels-Rausch in an interview about the great unknowns.
16. October 2012Media Releases Research Using Synchrotron Light Environment User Experiments
Experiments performed at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) investigate processes inside volcanic materials that determine whether a volcano will erupt violently or mildly. In the experiments, scientists heated small pieces of volcanic material similarly to conditions present at the beginning of a volcanic eruption. They used X-rays from the SLS to observe, in real time, what happens to the rock as it goes from the solid to the molten state.
13. June 2012Energy and Environment Environment
Das PSI ist in der Jubiläumsausstellung auf dem Jungfraujoch prominent vertreten
75 Jahre Sphinx-Observatoirum und 100 Jahre Jungfraubahnen: Dies ist der Anlass für eine Ausstellung der internationalen Stiftung Hochalpine Forschungsstationen Jungfraujoch und Gornergrat, die im Frühjahr eröffnet wurde.
This news release is only available in German.
22. May 2012Media Releases Energy and Environment Environment
A research team from the Paul Scherrer Institute has reconstructed the concentration record of lead in the atmosphere in Russia since 1680. The results demonstrate a significant increase in the atmospheric lead concentrations since the 1930s and a significant reduction since the 1970s.
25. August 2011Media Releases Energy and Environment Environment
Vom Menschen verursachte Aerosole wirken in der Atmosphäre kühlend: Klimaforscher nehmen an, dass sie einen Grossteil des anthropogenen Treibhauseffekts kompensieren. Allerdings müssen sich die Partikel zum Teil in der Atmosphäre erst neu bilden. Diesen bisher kaum untersuchten Prozess nimmt das CLOUD-Experiment am CERN, an dem auch Forscher des Paul Scherrer Instituts beteiligt sind, unter die Lupe. Dabei wurde erstmals ein Teilchenbeschleuniger für die Untersuchung von Vorgängen in der Atmosphäre eingesetzt. Die Ergebnisse zeigen: die Beschreibungen der Aerosolbildung in Klimamodellen muss revidiert werden.
This news release is only available in German.
21. February 2011Media Releases Energy and Environment Environment
Forschende des Paul Scherrer Instituts haben zusammen mit Kollegen aus China und den USA gezeigt, dass die Klimaerwärmung nicht alleine für die Gletscherschmelze im Himalaya verantwortlich ist. Auch Russ, der auf dem Gletscher abgelagert wird, trägt dazu bei. Der Russ entsteht, wenn Öl oder Holz verbrannt werden; Wind transportiert ihn dann in den Himalaya.
This news release is only available in German.
19. April 2010Media Releases Energy and Environment Environment
Data of the Paul Scherrer Institute from the High-Alpine Research Station Jungfraujoch yield important information.
The eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland has stalled flight traffic in large parts of Europe. Decision makers had to base their decisions mainly on model calculations for the volcanic plume dispersion. How dangerous is this volcanic ash layer for planes?
18. January 2010Media Releases Environment Energy and Environment
Up to the present time, the nucleation or new formation of particles in the atmosphere has been a great enigma. Until recently, research was based on the assumption that sulphuric acid played the central role in particle formation. However, laboratory experiments and field tests have consistently provided conflicting results. In the lab, considerably higher concentrations of sulphuric acid are required for nucleation to take place than in the atmosphere itself. Now scientists from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) have found out the cause for these conflicting results from their smog chamber. These findings will advance climate research to a significant degree.
10. December 2009Media Releases Environment Energy and Environment
Researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute, the University of Colorado and 29 other research institutions in various countries have investigated the composition of the organic constituents of the fine particulates found in various regions of the world, and have identified the original substances from which they are formed in each case. For the first time ever, this has enabled them to explain the role played by the individual components of emissions in the development of fine particulates.
19. December 2008Media Releases Energy and Environment Environment
Publication in Geophysical Research Letters. New results from climate research using ice cores from the Siberian Altai. The observation that the reconstructed temperatures followed the solar forcing with a delay of 10 to 30 years is particularly interesting.