Photon Science Division (PSD)

Research into extremely small structures at the molecular and atomic level leads to discoveries which are closely related to material properties as we know them on a larger scale, such as their strength, electrical conductivity or magnetisation. The best material or structure for any particular application will only be found if we understand the relationship between the microscopic and the macroscopic. As a result, there are many and varied uses for this research, e.g. for new types of materials and surfaces, for modern technologies, for biology and medicine, and for the environmentally-acceptable use of energy.

The Paul Scherrer Institut also researches the composition of materials and surface structures for use in fuel cells and innovative types of batteries. In addition, synchrotron light will provide insights into microscopic damage to materials and into the complex structure of bio-molecules which will, for example, make the targeted manufacture of new pharmaceuticals possible.

Objects with dimensions of thousandths of millionths of a meter are known as nanostructures. This minuteness will revolutionise every area of our technological world, whether in information transfer and data storage, or in sensors for biology, medicine and ecology. For example, specialists at PSI are working together on interdisciplinary projects to develop biosensors, artificial noses and optical electronics.

Latest News

22 March 2018

LEAPS join forces with the European Commission to strengthen Europe’s leading role in science

“A world where European science is a catalyst for solving global challenges, a key driver for competitiveness and a compelling force for closer integration and peace through scientific collaboration.” This is the vision of LEAPS, League of European Accelerator-based Photon Sources, on which the LEAPS Strategy 2030 is based. Director Jean-David Malo, DG Research and Innovation, received the strategy today at the Bulgarian Presidency Flagship Conference on Research Infrastructures.

I believe science makes the world a better place and I’m very happy to be able to present this strategy today, said Dr. Caterina Biscari, Director of ALBA Synchrotron and Vice Chair of LEAPS. I’m convinced it will be a major contribution in how to develop European research infrastructures in a cost-effective and sustainable way. I look forward to the upcoming discussions with the European Commission, with our national funders and with our extensive user community on how we, by joining forces, can boost European science and innovation.

The health, prosperity, and security of European citizens today and in the future depend on meeting increasingly demanding challenges. These can be found in energy and transport, health care and food safety, and sustainable living. This demands new technology, new treatments and a better understanding of the world around us, all of which point to an increased role and reliance on highly sophisticated analytical tools like accelerator-based light sources to provide the most incisive means of measuring and unravelling atomic and molecular structures of the world around us.

Europe hosts 13 synchrotron radiation facilities and six free electron laser facilities which all of them are founding members of LEAPS. They represent a multi-billion Euro investment with an annual operation budget of €700M serving more than 24 000 direct users.

The LEAPS Strategy 2030 shows how the members, by joining forces, will be able to deliver even better capacity and capabilities at their research infrastructures. This will be done through smart specialisation, closer co-operation, better engagement with industry and working together with the existing user communities to reach out to scientists, academic and non-academic, that may not yet know of all the tools and skills available at photon sources for solving questions from all fields of science. The strategy explains how LEAPS will address key issues of the European Long-Term Sustainability Action Plan, presents roadmaps to optimise national and European resources and also describes the how the path towards FP9 looks with a few carefully selected pilot activities under the Horizon2020 programme.

LEAPS fully embrace the European Commission’s “Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the World” concept and with the planned activities building on our strategy we hope to make a substantial contribution in making this a reality, concludes Dr. Biscari.

The LEAPS members are: ALBA, DESY, Diamond Light Source, Elettra, ESRF, European XFEL, Felix, HZB, HZDR, INFN, ISA, MAX IV, PSI, PTB, Solaris, Soleil, ESUO; read more at www.leaps-initiative.eu

19 March 2018

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HERCULES at the Swiss Light Source

In the week of March 18-23 PSI welcomes 20 PhD students and postdocs taking part in the HERCULES 2018 school on Neutron and Synchrotron Radiation. They will attend lectures and perform two days of practical courses at several beam lines of the Swiss Light Source.

27 February 2018


Are supersaturated calcium carbonate solutions classical or non-classical ?

Classical theory predicts that supersaturated carbonate solutions consist mostly of ions and ion pairs, with a small number of larger clusters present in the solution. The population of the different sized clusters in a solution is solely defined by the cluster’s size dependent Free Energy. If clusters are large enough they serve as nucleation germs for a new solid phase. The nucleation occurs once the surface free energy barrier posed by the new solid-liquid interface is overcome by the free energy win from bulk phase growth. However, for calcium carbonate solutions, this classical view has been challenged by the emergence of non-classical theories. In a novel experiment, using synchroton X-ray absorption spectroscopy, the molecular structure around the solvated calcium ion in dilute supersaturated calcium carbonate solutions was probed in situ. The results obtained definitively show that supersaturated calcium carbonate solutions are dominated by ions and ion pairs. The presence of larger oligomers as predicted by non-classical theories was not detected. Moreover, predictions from independent theoretical calculations on the structure of supersaturated calcium carbonate solutions were in congruence with the experimental results. As a consequence, it is quite clear that the nucleation of calcium carbonate follows a classical pathway.

29 January 2018

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Unravelling structure sensitivity in CO2 hydrogenation over nickel

Using a unique set of well-defined silica-supported Ni nanoclusters (1–7 nm) and advanced characterization methods it was proved how structure sensitivity influences the mechanism of catalytic CO2 reduction, the nature of which has been long debated.

21 December 2017

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Power from nanomagnets

Media Releases Industrial co-operation Matter and Material Materials Research Micro- and Nanotechnology

Oles Sendetskyi, winner of a Founder Fellowship at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI, wants to use polarity reversal in nanomagnets to develop a sustainable power source for small devices.

17 December 2017

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First Pilot Experiment at SwissFEL-Alvra: UV photo-induced charge transfer in OLED system

On the 17th of December 2017 SwissFEL saw its first pilot experiment in the Alvra experimental station of the SwissFEL ARAMIS beamline.
-- Last updated - 22 March 2018