Scientific Highlights from PSI's research divisions

Condensed Matter Research with Neutrons and Muons (NUM)

28 February 2017

Spiral spin-liquid and the emergence of a vortex-like state in MnSc2S4

Spirals and helices are common motifs of long-range order in magnetic solids, and they may also be organized into more complex emergent structures such as magnetic skyrmions and vortices. A new type of spiral state, the spiral spin-liquid, in which spins fluctuate collectively as spirals, has recently been predicted to exist. Here, using neutron scattering techniques, we experimentally prove the existence of a spiral spin-liquid in MnSc2S4 by directly observing the 'spiral surface'-a continuous surface of spiral propagation vectors in reciprocal space. We elucidate the multi-step ordering behaviour of the spiral spin- liquid, and discover a vortex-like triple-q phase on application of a magnetic field. Our results prove the e ectiveness of the J1-J2 Hamiltonian on the diamond lattice as a model for the spiral spin-liquid state in MnSc2S4, and also demonstrate a new way to realize a magnetic vortex lattice through frustrated interactions.
Facility: SINQ

Reference: S. Gao et al, Nature Physics 13, 157 (2017)

Read full article: here
Synchrotron Radiation and Nanotechnology (SYN)

16 March 2017

teaser picture

3-D X-ray imaging makes the finest details of a computer chip visible

Media Releases Materials Research Micro- and Nanotechnology Matter and Material Research Using Synchrotron Light

Researchers at the PSI have made detailed 3-D X-ray images of a commercially available computer chip. In their experiment, they examined a small piece that they had cut out of the chip beforehand. This sample remained undamaged throughout the measurement. It is a major challenge for manufacturers to determine if, in the end, the structure of their chips conforms to the specifications. Thus these results represent one important application of an X-ray tomography method that the PSI researchers have been developing for several years.
General Energy (ENE)

26 September 2017

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Atmosphere in X-ray light

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.
Biology and Chemistry (BIO)

23 December 2016


A three-dimensional movie of structural changes in bacteriorhodopsin

Snapshots of bacteriorhodopsin
Bacteriorhodopsin is a membrane protein that harvests the energy content from light to transport protons out of the cell against a transmembrane potential. Nango et al. used timeresolved serial femtosecond crystallography at an x-ray free electron laser to provide 13 structural snapshots of the conformational changes that occur in the nanoseconds to milliseconds after photoactivation. These changes begin at the active site, propagate toward the extracellular side of the protein, and mediate internal protonation exchanges that achieve proton transport.

First lasing in SwissFEL test facility

On the 15th of January 2014, first lasing was achieved in the SwissFEL injector test facility. This is a great success on the way towards SwissFEL, the future hard x-ray free-electron laser that is currently under construction at PSI. It proves the successful functioning of many key components together in a larger system as required for SwissFEL. Furthermore, this is the very first operation of a free-electron laser in Switzerland. Since 2010, PSI has been operating a test facility to study and optimize the electron source for SwissFEL. Over the last years, the test facility was advanced to one of the most brilliant electron sources in the world, and during the last shutdown end of 2013, a first undulator - a highly precise periodic array of magnets - was installed in the facility. This innovative type of undulator is an in-vacuum design with a very small period length of only 15 mm, that was specifically developed for SwissFEL. During the very first beam time after the installation of the undulator, the electron beam could be successfully tuned to pass the undulator with low losses - this is very important to prevent radiation damage to the sensitive 1060 permanent magnets of the undulator. The electrons generate spontaneous radiation when passing the undulator, and this radiation was detected with scintillator screen monitors. In a next step, the electron beam was strongly compressed in a bunch compressor chicane to generate a very large charge density, which is required for the FEL process. This initiated the free-electron lasing process, leading to an exponential increase of the emitted radiation along the undulator. An electron beam with an energy of 220 MeV and a bunch charge of 200 pC was used in that process, and first lasing was detected at a wavelength of around 80 nm. By adjusting the gap of the undulator, the wavelength of the emitted laser light could be tuned over one octave from around 45 to 90 nm
Facility: SwissFEL
Reference: Hans Braun;; Paul Scherrer Institut, CH-5232 Villigen PSI, Switzerland