Ancient metal objects are illuminated by neutrons at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI. This enables researchers to discover what is hidden inside them, how they were made and how they can be preserved.
Federica Marone illuminates objects with high-intensity X-ray beams, Eberhard Lehmann with neutrons. Both have used their methods to give palaeontologists and archaeologists a new view into the past.
In 1999, PSI researchers founded the spin-off firm SwissNeutronics. Today the company has a staff of 15, sells high-precision components to research institutions all over the world, and still is based in the small town of Klingnau – not far from PSI.
Whether they study materials for the electronics of the future, batteries, or swords from the Bronze Age — for 20 years researchers from a range of disciplines have been using the Swiss Spallation Neutron Source SINQ of the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI for their investigations. At a symposium on 18 April, researchers looked back on the facility's successes and presented plans for modernisation.
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.
Christian Rüegg has been awarded a prestigious Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). With this funding he will continue to investigate how the smallest magnetic building blocks of matter interact.
Thanks to an ultramodern research method, scientists have successfully looked inside transformers and observed the magnetic domains at work in the interior of a transformer’s iron core. Transformers are indispensable in regulating electricity both in industry and in domestic households. The current research results show that the new examination method can be profitably applied to develop more efficient transformers.
Interview with Oksana Zaharko
New scientific questions demand ever better experimental equipment. In this interview, PSI researcher Oksana Zaharko reports on the challenges of setting up a new instrument for research with neutrons.
7. January 2016Media Releases Matter and Material Research Using Neutrons
Usually, superconductors expel magnetic fields. In type II superconductors, however, thin channels – so-called flux tubes – are formed. The magnetic field is guided through these tubes while the rest of the material remains field-free and superconducting. In the metal niobium, the flux tubes bunch together into small islands that create complex patterns similar to those found in other fields of nature. A team of researchers from PSI and TU München were the first to conduct neutron experiments to study these patterns in niobium and determine the distribution of the islands in detail.
2. October 2015Media Releases Research Using Neutrons Particle Physics
Our universe consists of significantly more matter than existing theories are able to explain. This is one of the great puzzles of modern science. One way to clarify this discrepancy is via the neutron’s so-called electric dipole moment. In an international collaboration, researchers at PSI have now devised a new method which will help determine this dipole moment more accurately than ever before.
9. October 2014Large Research Facilities Research Using Neutrons
Today, several hundred members of the European scientific community gathered at the European Spallation Source (ESS) construction site in Lund, Sweden, for the ESS Foundation Stone Ceremony. The event was held to ‘lay the foundation’ both for the new facility, which has recently begun construction, and for a new generation of science in Europe.
16. June 2014Media Releases Energy and Environment Research Using Neutrons
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.
26. May 2014Media Releases Biology Research Using Neutrons Large Research Facilities
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.
6. April 2014Media Releases Research Using Neutrons Large Research Facilities
Changes to the aggregate state triggered by quantum effects – in physically correct terms, quantum phase transitions – 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.
24. February 2014Media Releases Large Research Facilities Research Using Muons Research Using Neutrons Particle Physics Matter and Material
Materials research, particle physics, molecular biology, archaeology – 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.
22. December 2013Media Releases Research Using Neutrons Materials Research Matter and Material
Superconductivity and magnetic fields are normally seen as rivals – very strong magnetic fields normally destroy the superconducting state. Physicists at the Paul Scherrer Institute have now demonstrated that a novel superconducting state is only created in the material CeCoIn5 when there are strong external magnetic fields. This state can then be manipulated by modifying the field direction. The material is already superconducting in weaker fields, too. In strong fields, however, an additional second superconducting state is created which means that there are two different superconducting states at the same time in the same material.
17. October 2013Media Releases Research Using Neutrons Research Using Synchrotron Light Materials Research
Helena Van Swygenhoven, materials researcher at the Paul Scherrer Institute and professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), has been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant. This prestigious EUR 2.5 million grant from the European Research Council will enable Van Swygenhoven to launch the new research project MULTIAX. Under this project, she will investigate what happens in metallic materials during deformation - a question important for the production processes for car parts. Furthermore, the project will also develop new methods that can be used to study materials at large research facilities. These methods will be accessible to experts from research and industry.
26. September 2013Research Using Neutrons Matter and Material Storage
Understanding sodium dynamics on a microscopic level
Lithium ion batteries are highly efficient, But there are drawbacks to the use of lithium: it is expensive and its extraction rather harmful to the environment. One possible alternative might be to substitute lithium with sodium. To be able to develop sodium-based batteries, it is crucial to understand how sodium ions move in the relevant materials. Now, for the first time, scientists at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI have determined the paths along which sodium ions move in a prospective battery material. With these results, one can now start to think of new and specific ways to manipulate the materials through slight changes to their structure or composition, for example – and thereby achieve the optimized material properties necessary for use in future batteries.
30. August 2013Matter and Material Research Using Neutrons Research Using Synchrotron Light
Experiments conducted at the PSI have made it possible to determine how a unique Bronze Age axe was made. This was thanks to the process of neutron imaging, which can be used to generate an accurate three-dimensional image of an object’s interior. For the last decade, the PSI has been collaborating with various museums and archaeological institutions both in Switzerland and abroad. The fact that the 18th International Congress on Ancient Bronzes, which is to be held at the University of Zurich from 3 – 7 September, will also be meeting at the PSI for one day is a testament to the success of the cooperation.
11. July 2013Energy and Environment Research Using Neutrons Nuclear Power Plant Safety Large Research Facilities
The manipulation and examination of irradiated and therefore radioactive objects, be they from nuclear power stations or research facilities, requires strict safety measures. Tests may only be conducted in so-called “hot cells”, where the radioactivity is hermetically enclosed and shielded behind concrete and lead walls up to 1 metre thick. In the hot cells of the PSI hot lab, the burnt-off fuel rods from the Swiss nuclear power stations are studied from a materials science perspective. The insights gained help nuclear power station operators to optimise the efficiency and safety of their plants. Besides this service, the hot lab is involved in several international research projects.
6. June 2013Energy and Environment Research Using Neutrons Nuclear Power Plant Safety
Neutrons are an excellent tool for the non-destructive imaging the interior of objects. They can provide a valuable complement to the more widely used x ray radiography. For some materials that are virtually opaque or for those that cannot be distinguished by X-rays, neutrons provide the only informative ‘dissection tool‘. However, neutron radiography is mainly confined to the laboratory and fixed facilities, because neutron generation relies on equipment like nuclear reactors or particle accelerators, which are costly, complex and cannot be moved. Scientists at the Laboratory for Thermohydraulics at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI want to develop a more flexible imaging technique based on fast neutrons.
3. April 2013Media Releases Matter and Material Research Using Neutrons
Developmental Engineers from the firm LuK (D) wanted to see right through the metal housing of a clutch. They wanted to observe how the oil that lubricates and cools a clutch is distributed. A transparent disc becomes dirty very quickly, and X-rays merely reveal the metal. These engineers therefore turned to scientists at the Paul Scherrer Institute, who illuminated the metal with neutrons and thus made the lubricating oil visible. The results surprised everyone: only three of the eight lamellae were sufficiently lubricated.
11. July 2012Media Releases Research Using Neutrons Materials Research
Diesel motor vehicles have to be equipped with soot particulate filters, so the harmful soot and ash cannot get into the environment. Whilst these operate according to appropriate standards, up until now, the details about the distribution of soot and ash inside these filters has been unknown. Now, thanks to the special examination techniques of the Paul Scherrer Institute [PSI], the actual filter loads have been seen for the first time.
19. September 2011Media Releases Matter and Material Research Using Neutrons
Mauro Dell’Ambrogio, Staatssekretär für Bildung und Forschung unterzeichnete heute die Absichtserklärung der Schweiz, sich an der neuen europäischen Neutronenquelle ESS (European Spallation Source) zu beteiligen. Darin bekennt sich die Schweiz zu dem Ziel, die ESS in Lund (Südschweden) zu bauen und verpflichtet sich, am Konzept mitzuarbeiten, in dem der endgültige Plan für die Anlage festgelegt wird. Kurz nach Fertigstellung des Konzepts im Frühjahr 2013 soll die Entscheidung für den Bau der ESS fallen. Die Schweizer Beiträge zur Entwicklung der Anlage werden durch das Paul Scherrer Institut, das langjährige Erfahrung in der Forschung mit Neutronen hat, sowie durch Schweizer Universitäten und die Schweizer Industrie erbracht.
This news release is only available in German.
15. September 2011Media Releases Research Using Neutrons Biology User Experiments
An international research team has now demonstrated in experiments at the Paul Scherrer Institute that the soil in the vicinity of roots contains more water that that further away. Apparently, plants create a small water reserve that helps to tide them over through short periods of drought. These results were obtained from experiments carried out with the benefit of neutron tomography.
24. November 2010Media Releases Matter and Material Materials Research Research Using Neutrons
Magnetisierbare Materialien sind nie völlig unmagnetisch, sondern enthalten immer magnetisierte Bereiche – die magnetischen Domänen. In einem Experiment am Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) konnten diese Domänen erstmals in ihrer dreidimensionalen Struktur abgebildet werden. Der Versuch beruhte auf einer Weiterentwicklung eines am Paul Scherrer Institut entstanden Verfahrens und nutzte neutronenoptische Komponenten, die am PSI hergestellt worden sind.
This news release is only available in German.
26. October 2010Media Releases Matter and Material Materials Research Research Using Neutrons
In strong magnetic fields, type II superconductors tend to form flux lines – thin channels through which the magnetic field can pass through the superconductor. Usually, these flux lines tend to form regular patterns. Now, two physicists have shown that such a pattern must depend on the direction of the external magnetic field. These results are based on a mathematical principle known as the
Hairy ball theorem.
1. December 2009Matter and Material Research Using Neutrons Large Research Facilities
In the SINQ spallation source a beam of fast protons (at about 80 % of the speed of light) from the PSI proton accelerator facility strikes a block of lead (the Target). If a fast proton collides with a lead nucleus, the nucleus will be heated up and eject 10 to 20 neutrons. The neutrons set free by this method are extremely fast – much too fast for the experiments. In order to decelerate the neutrons after they have been generated, the whole target is placed in a tank filled with heavy water
1. December 2009Matter and Material Research Using Synchrotron Light Research Using Neutrons Research Using Muons Large Research Facilities Particle Physics
The neutrons and muons used for experiments at PSI are all produced by a beam of fast protons colliding with a target – made of lead in the case of the SINQ neutron source and of carbon in the case of the SμS muon source. For that purpose, the protons are accelerated to 80% of the speed of light at PSI's accelerator facility. The facility has been in operation since 1974. After numerous improvements, it provides the most intense proton beam in the world.
1. December 2009Matter and Material Research Using Synchrotron Light Research Using Muons Research Using Neutrons Large Research Facilities Particle Physics
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.
1. December 2009Matter and Material Research Using Neutrons
Neutron experiments can reveal the internal structure of materials and objects. In neutron scattering experiments, a beam of neutrons is pointed at the material to be investigated. On their way through the material, some neutrons will change their flight direction or velocity. From the changes observed in these parameters, one can determine the arrangement and motion of atoms, and gain insights into magnetic phenomena. Imaging techniques can also give us a snapshot of the interiors of an enormous range of objects – from technical equipment to works of art.
1. December 2009Matter and Material Research Using Neutrons
With neutron experiments, one can gain information about the structure and composition of different materials that is unobtainable using any other technique. Thus, neutron experiments allow one to determine how the atoms are arranged in a material and how they move, or to learn about their magnetic properties. At the Paul Scherrer Institute, neutrons are used in the research of physicists, chemists, biologists and materials scientists. Most of these researchers come from other scientific institutions to perform their experiments at PSI.
16. February 2009Media Releases Matter and Material Materials Research Research Using Neutrons
Nature Materials. Forscher der Universität Freiburg und des Paul Scherrer Instituts PSI entdecken neue Form der Koexistenz zwischen Supraleitung und Magnetismus. Ferromagnetismus und Supraleitung vertragen sich eigentlich nicht. Über diese neue Variante im Wettstreit zwischen der Supraleitung und dem Ferromagnetismus berichten sie ab Montag, 16. Februar 2009 in der Online-Ausgabe des Wissenschafts-Journals Nature Materials.
This news release is only available in French and German.
28. November 2008Media Releases Research Using Neutrons
Neutronenforscher feiern heute am Paul Scherrer Institut die 20-jährige Mitgliedschaft der Schweiz beim Institut Laue-Langevin, Grenoble. Der Beitritt der Schweiz zu dem als deutsch-französische Kooperation gegründeten Institut sichert Schweizer Forschenden einen festen Anteil an der Messzeit des ILL.
This news release is only available in French and German.
19. September 2008Media Releases Matter and Material Research Using Neutrons Materials Research
From rivals to partners. The wild world of quantum mechanics produces states that are not predicted by the classical theory of physics. Today's edition of
Sciencemagazine includes a report of an astonishingly new type of state by an international team of scientists around physicist Michel Kenzelmann from the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland.
11. January 2008Media Releases Materials Research Matter and Material Research Using Neutrons
Superconductors take advantage of electron pairing to transport electrical current without resistance. They are therefore of central significance in energy research. An international team of scientists has published the latest research results in this field in today's edition of
27. November 2007Human Health Medical Science Biology Research Using Neutrons
Using the tools and techniques of soft condensed matter physics, a research team from University of Fribourg and EPF Lausanne in Switzerland has demonstrated that a finely tuned balance of attractions between proteins keeps the lens of the eye transparent, and that even a small change in this balance can cause proteins to aggregate and de-mix.