The Materials Science group now comprises the beamlines ID09A and B, ID11, ID15A and B, ID30 and ID31. The major news from the group is the transfer of the Powder Diffraction Beamline BM16 to an undulator source located at ID31. The new powder beamline provides superior flux and resolution giving a much improved production capability. New and improved microfocussing capabilities using flexible refractive lenses have been implemented on ID11 and ID15. It is now possible to obtain microfocus beams up to energies in excess of 130 keV and down to a few micrometres in spot size. Early tests show flux increases under these conditions of two orders of magnitude and a much simplified alignment procedure. ID30 has successfully implemented a laser-heating facility for high-pressure work. The temperatures reached so far are in excess of 4000°C. ID09A and B have installed new superior mirrors and a more flexible undulator to further improve the useable flux. ID15 has finished a major refurbishment of the shielding and experimental flux capabilility. The Materials Science group actively participates in FaME38, which is a project aimed at encouraging engineering research throughout Europe. FaME38 is a joint venture between the ESRF, ILL and British Universities.

Materials science research plays a major role at the ESRF and spans a wide range of applications from metals to novel materials for electronics applications. It is thus impossible to cover all areas in a short highlight presentation. The tendency in the field is to utilise the unique properties of the X-ray source i.e. the high brilliance, the microfocussing capability and coherence. Many of the experiments thus deal with time-resolved studies, non-ambient conditions such as high temperatures and pressures and studies of relationships between structure and material properties in bulk materials. A few representative studies are given below.

Fundamental studies in materials science deal with development of microstructure as a function of processing conditions. The microstructure plays an important role for the properties of materials and detailed information is needed on the mechanisms guiding the development of specific microstructures. This knowledge will be used to obtain new models that will form the basis for the production of novel materials. One article describes a new area, where the 3D high-energy microscope is used for microstructure characterisation. A specific example of the use of this instrument is given in the article on grain nucleation and growth during phase transformations in carbon steel. Another article describes a study of sintering of copper powder by rapid in situ tomographic imaging at high energies.

A promising development in the electronics field is the manipulation of matter by light on picosecond to femtosecond timescales. Examples of studies in this area are given by a study of lattice relaxed exciton strings in organic compounds. A second study addresses ferroelectric structural ordering by picosecond diffraction.

Novel development in high-pressure research has opened up the field of studies of liquids at high pressure. A pioneering study of first-order liquid-liquid phase transitions of phosphorus illustrates the possibilities of directly determination of the local structure of liquids by X-ray diffraction.