The Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) has been developing, constructing and operating complex large-scale research facilities for several decades. The research institute also makes these facilities available to external researchers at universities, research institutes and in industry – for researchers in Switzerland, this is the only opportunity to carry out such experiments in the country.

The interior of the SLS building. Photo: PSI

The PSI, part of the ETH Domain, has large-scale, complex research facilities that allow experiments to be performed in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, material science and energy and environmental technology. These facilities include the neutron source SINQ, the Swiss light source SLS and the muon source SµS. They are unique in Switzerland, as they are complicated and expensive to operate. Researchers in a variety of disciplines from universities and other research institutes can obtain decisive findings for their research in experiments using PSI's large-scale facilities, which often lends them a competitive edge. As a user laboratory, the PSI not only offers access to its facilities but also sets great store by providing highly experienced instrument technicians to professionally assist external scientists by precisely adjusting their complex equipment to suit the user's needs.

Beam time in high demand

Around 4,560 working visits were made to the PSI in 2010, 1,141 of which by researchers from Switzerland. In total, approximately 1,755 experiments were carried out. The demand for beam time exceeds the actual time available. For this reason, researchers must submit a proposal, with beam time being allocated to only the best proposals. Most Swiss users come from the ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich, closely followed by the EPFL. PSI’s regular guests also include researchers from the universities in Basel, Berne, Fribourg, Geneva, Lausanne and Neuchâtel. The research arm of the Swiss pharmaceutical industry has financed its own measuring stations at the large-scale facilities, so it visits the PSI just as regularly as other Swiss companies, which prefer to remain unnamed for competitive reasons.