The Paul Scherrer Institute, PSI, is the largest research centre for natural and engineering sciences within Switzerland, with its research activities concentrated on three main subject areas: Matter and Material, Energy and the Environment, and Health. The PSI develops, constructs and operates complex large-scale research facilities. Every year, more than 2000 scientists from Switzerland and other countries travel to PSI in order to perform experiments at our unique facilities. PSI has about 1500 staff, with an annual budget of approximately CHF 365 million, and is primarily financed by the Swiss Confederation. PSI is part of the ETH Domain, with the other members being the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology, ETH Zurich and EPFL Lausanne, as well as the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science & Technology, Empa, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Eawag, and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, WSL. The Institute is located on both sides of the River Aare, in the Villigen and Würenlingen municipal areas, in the Canton of Aargau. PSI contributes to the education of future generation by training young specialists and students. For school students it offers/provides the school laboratory iLab.
Main areas of research
Researchers in the area of Matter and Material study the internal structure of a wide range of different materials. Results contribute towards a better understanding of processes occurring in nature and provide starting points in the development of new materials for technical applications. The goal of activities in the Energy and Environment area is to develop new technologies to facilitate the creation of a sustainable and secure supply of energy, as well as an uncontaminated environment. In the Health area, researchers are searching for the causes of illnesses, and exploring potential treatment methods. Their basic research activities also include the clarification of generic processes in living organisms.
Large research facilities
PSI operates large scientific research facilities, such as the SINQ neutron source, the Swiss Light Source (SLS) and the SμS muon source, which offer out-of-the-ordinary insights into the processes taking place in the interior of different substances and materials. These are the only such facilities within Switzerland, and some are the only ones in the world.
PSI provides access to their large research facilities via a User Service to researchers from universities, other research centres and industry. Since the demand for access normally far exceeds the time available, a committee comprising experts from a number of different countries selects the best applications. In 2011, more than 2300 external researchers carried out measurements at the approximately 40 measuring stations of these large-scale research facilities.
In addition to its research activities, the Institute operates Switzerland's sole facility for the treatment of specific malignant tumours using protons. This particularly sensitive procedure allows tumours to be destroyed in a targeted manner, leaving the surrounding tissue largely undamaged.
Education and training
As a research institution oriented towards the natural sciences, with a requirement to undertake first-rate research at the highest level, we depend on the availability of an innovative infrastructure and sufficient funding. Ultimately, however, our employees – the brains behind the machines – are our major strength, as PSI's most crucial capital resource is the outstanding competence, experience and motivation of its employees. We therefore regard education and training as extremely important and we consequently also undertake the training of school children, people in various professions, students and academics.