Scientific Highlights and News Swiss Light Source (SLS) 2017

1 September 2017


Dr. Nan Xu awarded SPS 2017 Prize in Condensed Matter Physics

The SPS 2017 Prize in Condensed Matter Physics, sponsored by IBM, has been awarded to Dr. Nan Xu for his excellent work on topological quantum states. Dr. Nan Xu is a joint postdoc of Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).

20 July 2017

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Diving into magnets

Media Releases Materials Research Matter and Material Research Using Synchrotron Light

For the first time, scientists have made visible the directions of the magnetisation inside a 3D magnetic object. The smallest details in their visualisation were ten thousand times smaller than a millimetre. Among others, the magnetic structure contained one outstanding kind of pattern: magnetic singularities called Bloch points, which up to now were only known in theory.

17 July 2017

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Nanomaterial helps store solar energy: efficiently and inexpensively

By combining a scalable cutting-edge synthesis method with time-resolved X-ray absorption spectroscopy measurements, it was possible to capture the dynamic local electronic and geometric structure during realistic operando conditions for highly active OER perovskite nanocatalysts.

13 July 2017

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Understanding the reaction mechanism in lignin catalytic fast pyrolysis

Lignin is a major constituent of plants, and may be used as a precursor for fuels and fine chemicals. Catalytic fast pyrolysis of lignin is one of the most promising approaches. By using vacuum ultraviolet synchrotron radiation and threshold photoelectron spectroscopy we could identify elusive intermediates, which are responsible for the formation of phenol and benzene and could thus tackle this reaction mechanism. Mechanistic understanding could enable targeted improvement of production methods in the future, beyond the currently used "cook-and-look" approach.

22 June 2017


Photonic structure of white beetle wing scales: optimized by evolution

A very thin layer on this beetle’s wings exhibits a complicated structure on the nanoscale that gives them a bright white color. X-ray nanotomography acquired at the Swiss Light Source provides a faithful image of this structure in three dimensions with which scientists can confirm its evolutionary optimization: just enough material for an efficient reflection of white light.

31 May 2017


Isomer-Selective Generation and Spectroscopic Characterization of Biofuel Intermediates

Online combustion analysis relies heavily on spectral data to detect reactive intermediates isomer-selectively to establish e.g. kinetic flame models. Due to the difficulty to generate these species cleanly, spectral data are rather scarce. Here we report on the selective generation of three picolyl radical isomers (C5H4N-CH2*) by deamination of aminomethylpyridines. Picolyl radicals are relevant in biofuel combustion, and could now be characterized by threshold photoelectron spectroscopy using synchrotron radiation. Vibrationally resolved bands and distinct ionization energies allow for isomer-specific detection of these elusive species in complex environments and permit us to explore new avenues in soot- and NOx formation kinetics.

23 May 2017

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Towards understanding of human betacoronavirus HKU1 life cycle

Researchers from China and USA join forces with Swiss Light Source (SLS) macromolecular crystallography (MX) beamline scientists in a study, which aims at understanding an important step in the life cycle of the human betacoronavirus HKU1.

16 March 2017

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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.

9 March 2017

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Interlaced zone plates push the resolution limit in x-ray microscopy

A novel type of diffractive lenses based on interlaced structures enable x-ray imaging at resolutions below 10 nm. The fabrication method and the test results of these novel x-ray lenses have been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

5 January 2017

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Nanotechnology enables new insights into chemical reactions

Media Releases Energy and Environment Research Using Synchrotron Light Micro- and Nanotechnology

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.