Users meeting 2011 and satellite workshops


From 7 – 10 February 2011, Grenoble was more than ever the place to gather for all European scientists interested in cutting-edge research using synchrotron radiation, as the 21st annual ESRF Users Meeting took place under bright blue skies. This year’s Users Meeting and its three associated workshops welcomed around 330 participants to pleasant, sunny Grenoble for 4 days of presentations and discussions devoted to recent advances and future directions in science at the facility.

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The plenary sessions on the mornings of Tuesday 8 and Wednesday 9 February included a keynote lecture by Nobel Prize winner Dr. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, four further plenary lectures covering a large spectrum of ESRF activities, an overview of activities within the Instrumentation Services and Development Division and a report from the ESRF Directors.

There was also a talk from the winner of the 2011 young scientist award. This year the award went to Dr. Helen Walker, a post-doctoral researcher at ID20, for her outstanding work on exotic types of low temperatures ordering in complex materials. The best poster award was won by Thomas Scheler from the University of Edinburgh for his poster entitled high-pressure synthesis of platinum hydride.

Three workshops were associated with this year’s Users meeting. These were entitled “X-Rays and Neutrons in Energy-Related Materials Science”, “New Developments in Time-Resolved Studies with Synchrotron Radiation” and “Structure and Magnetism in Multiferroics”. The energy workshop was co-organised by the ESRF, the ILL and the partners of GIANT. All three workshops were very well-attended, and the presentations were of excellent quality.

During the Users meeting dinner, the outgoing chairperson of the users organisation, Gerlind Sulzenbacher, handed over her responsibilities to the new chairperson, Chiara Maurizio (University of Padova). Chiara then introduced the most newly elected members of the users organisation: Beatrice Vallone (University of Rome “La Sapienza”) who will replace Gerlind as structural biology representative, and Chrystèle Sanloup (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris) who replaces Tullio Scopigno as the representative for dynamics and extreme conditions. Gerlind Sulzenbacher also thanked all the people behind the scenes who organise this meeting successfully year after year.

Young Scientist Award Best Poster Award

Left: Helen Walker (ID20) receives the Young Scientist Award at the Users' Meeting 2011 - Prize given by Dr Venkatraman Ramakrishnan. Right: Thomas Scheler (ICMCS - Cambridge University) receives the Best Poster Award given by Chiara Maurizio, Head of User Organisation.


Workshop on time resolved studies with synchrotron radiation

A multi-disciplinary workshop on the theme “time resolved structure” was held at the Users’ Meeting with the aim of reviewing state-of-the-art experiments at the ESRF and elsewhere and discusses new science and technology within the upgrade programme.

21 invited speakers addressed problems ranging from physics to biology and studied by diffraction, SAXS/WAXS, XANES/EXAFS and imaging. Fascinating new femtosecond results were shown by Simone Techert, Philippe Wernet and Christian Bressler who used ultra short x-ray pulses from the LCLS in Stanford to study the interplay between electronic and structural transitions in chemical reactions. Another fascina-ting talk was given by H. Shimizu, a visiting scientist from Fukui University, who showed how the dynamics of membrane channels can be tracked from the Laue spots from nanocrystals attached to the channels. The motion of the spots was recorded with a CMOS image intensifier with a frame rate of 5000 frames/s. Renske van der Veen from the SLS showed how the Lausanne team at the SLS had increased the pump-probe frequency from the usual 1 kHz to 1 MHz using a table-top femtosecond laser. The gain in signal-to-noise ratio from running the experiment at the frequency of the single-bunch at the SLS is impressive, a factor 23. The catch is that the laser pulse energy is very low, i.e. tens of micro Joules, which restricts its use to systems that can be initiated by the laser fundamental (1064 nm) or its second harmonic (532 nm).

The consensus at the workshop was that time resolved detectors with millisecond and sub millisecond resolution is the highest priority for the ESRF in the next 5-10 years. Laser based pump-probe experiments can be done routinely at the ESRF with 100 picosecond resolution, but many important reactions cannot be initiated by a short laser pulse.  Time resolved area detectors will therefore open up fantastic new opportunities for filming the time history of reactions in the near future with very high efficiency.


Workshop on structure and magnetism in multiferroics

The workshop aimed at bringing together the most active scientists in the field, advance the state-of-the-art in multiferroics, and potentially identify questions to which synchrotron-based techniques can provide new insights. The workshop covered a broad spectrum of topics, ranging from multiferroic heterostructures and nano-devices to more fundamental neutron and x-ray studies.

About 50 participants attended the workshop. The programme comprised 10 invited talks, 8 contributed talks, as well as a poster session. The discussions during the oral sessions, the poster sessions, as well as during the dinner held on the evening of the first day were all very lively. The strong interest attracted by the talks and discussions is attested by the fact that no one was seen checking his/her email during the sessions.


Workshop on X-rays and neutrons in energy-related materials science

Among the major challenges for society in 21st century (which include the production and supply of water and food for an increasing population, the human health and aging, the climate change and the environment, …) the production, storage and economy of clean, renewable energy plays a key role. A new generation of materials can help producing, store and make the best use of this type of energy (materials for batteries, fuel cell, hydrogen storage, light weight materials, and photo-voltaic, solid state lighting and thermoelectricity).

The development of new materials for energy relies to a large extent on a profound understanding of the multi-scale origins of their properties. Intense synchrotron X-ray and neutron beams, with their capacity to probe matter from the atomic to the macro scale, contribute significantly to this objective and are expected to play an even more important role in the future.

A first originality of this workshop with respect to many others organised around the users’ meeting is that it was co-organized by the ESRF, the ILL and the other GIANT partners.  The aim is to promote centers of excellence that focus on applied research in information and communications technology, energy and health.

The workshop consisted of invited lectures by internationally recognised specialists (sessions on batteries, light materials, hydrogen storage and fuel cells, and photovoltaic and lighting materials), and of a very lively poster session. The users’ meeting “material science” and “imaging” parallel sessions were devoted to the topics of the workshop, including materials for nuclear reactors and fusion, or reservoir rocks.

This workshop clearly covered most of recent progress in the analysis by X-rays and neutrons of the properties of materials for energy conversion, harvesting, storage and economy. It promoted the sharing of information on the latest developments in this crucial area of science and technology.

The second originality of this workshop is that it was considered, both by the organisers and the participants, as a step enabling an enhanced cooperation between the users of large scale facilities and academic and industrial actors of the energy materials field. In his conclusions, Andrew Harrison wished to give an answer to many questions going into this direction, make sure that ILL and ESRF have the techniques and equipment needed by materials/industrial scientists, and formulate a roadmap, together with the GIANT partners, to optimise our contributions to materials for energy. A short document summarising the conclusions will be produced over the next weeks.

Top image: The keynote lecture by V. Ramakrishnan was on how the ribosome enhances the fidelity of translation of the genetic code.