State-of-the-art instrumentation and associated enabling technologies are one of the pillars of the on-going Upgrade Programme. Driven by the first UPBL projects, several key technological areas have been identified and tackled, ranging from X-ray mirror engineering, diamond technologies, nano-focussing optics, pixel detectors, on-line data analysis to high-rate data collection. Overall, one of the most challenging aspects of our programme is setting a balanced human and financial investment between mid and long-term R&D projects and UPBLs implementation. 2011 has seen the maturation and consolidation of the projects initiated in 2010. In this context, ISDD and TID provide resources for the execution of the Upgrade Programme for both beamlines and the accelerator complex.

This chapter is a collection of five articles exemplifying some important and recent technical achievements, ranging from sample manipulation and production of nanobeams to the development of new frameworks for 2D detectors. Indeed, the selected articles illustrate the common ambition to provide the best response to the increasing expectations of our users’ communities in terms of beamline performance. The dramatic improvements of the accelerator performances and the possibilities offered by the new experimental hall for enhanced beamlines calls for innovative scientific instrumentation. Similarly, new experimental methods require new instrumental concepts. A good example of the paradigm is given by the two first articles.

The first article deals with a method aiming at recording mega-pixel speciation maps.

This so-called full-field X-ray microspectroscopy, developed at ID21, provides large field-of-view images with a sub-micrometre pixel resolution and is very well suited to the chemical characterisation of geological materials. To be successful, this new method overcame several technical challenges including new optics and the detection and processing of large 2D-hyperspectral data sets.

The second article illustrates the need for a pioneering approach when dealing with nanobeam based experiments, one branch of which is now aiming for the manipulation of a single particle in a very accurate but non-invasive way. The ID13 team explored the potential of optical tweezers based on the trapping capability of focused laser beams for the manipulation of objects with ultra-low contact forces.

The performance of most of the beamlines is determined today by the implementation and reliable operation of customised state-of-the art detection systems. Whilst all synchrotron radiation facilities have the common goal of developing the best technologies for detectors, which is paramount to all of these facilities, their strategies and capabilities can differ significantly. A number of collaborations exist based on frameworks with varying degrees of formality, ranging from bilateral collaborations to multi-facility European networks. Among several pan-European initiatives coordinated by ESRF, HIZPAD (high-Z pixel array detectors), described in the third article, is an excellent example of multi-facility collaboration. HIZPAD, a Joint Research Activity within the FP7 project ELISA - aims to improve the detection efficiency of X-ray pixel detectors in the 20-100 keV energy range, currently limited by the poor absorption of silicon sensors. The high degree of customisation of detection systems for a given experiment, led, for instance, to a dramatic inflation in the variety of 2D detectors used on beamlines. Implementation and maintenance of this broad suite of new 2D detectors generally requires a significant amount of human resources. With the objective of optimising resources, a specific effort has been made in establishing a policy for standardising beamline components and instruments. Ideally, this standardisation has to be achieved across Europe. As described in the fourth article, LiMA (library for image acquisition), aims at meeting both objectives. Initiated by the ESRF, LiMA has been adopted by many other facilities and some detector manufacturers and today offers new, fully-standardised interfaces with enhanced capabilities for a wide range of 2D detectors for imaging, diffraction, scattering and spectroscopy experiments.

Cutting-edge instrumentation requires a very high level of optimisation and integration with a full control of all stages from modelling to fabrication, assembly and control. The in-house development of dynamically-figured multilayer mirrors for nanofocussing is a promising example of this improved synergy between the X-ray Optics, Advanced Analysis & Modelling, Mechanical Engineering and the Software groups of the ISDD and beamline teams (ID22NI, in this case). As described in the last article of this chapter, ID22NI routinely provides beam sizes of 59 x 43 nm2 with photon flux of 1012 ph/s corresponding to a record flux density of 1.5 x 108 ph/s/nm2.

This is indeed the fruit of long standing R&D effort which confirms the appropriateness of our approach and which paves the way for future UPBLs.

Handling the massif flux of data coming from modern 2D detectors is another challenge which requires a coordinated approach between different groups at the ESRF. Work has started to optimise the integration of these detectors into the ESRF IT infrastructure in order to minimise bottlenecks in the data flow from the detector to the actual data analysis. This is work in progress and we will be glad to report on this project in next year’s issue of the Highlights.

R. Dimper and J. Susini