The path to approval deeply involved the Council, Science Advisory Committee (SAC) and User Communities without whom the positive decision would not have been possible. The staff and the management of the ESRF are grateful to the stakeholders and the funding agencies for having given a green light for the Upgrade Programme in a difficult international funding context.

The stage for the Upgrade Programme was set five years ago with the Long Term Strategy, a document looking to the future of the ESRF for the coming decade, which at the turn of 2003-04 received positive reactions from the Council and the subsequent User Meeting. This strategy document was followed up with the two-volume Purple Book (Figure 1), a detailed science and technological programme mapping out concrete ideas and proposals for new beamlines, infrastructure and techniques. At this time, the Upgrade was also included on the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) road map for large-scale European research infrastructures, showing the importance of a renewed ESRF for the European Research Area.

Fig. 1: The two volumes of the Purple Book outline the science cases and ideas for the future science and technology programme of the ESRF. The Purple Book can be downloaded in PDF form from the ESRF web site.

Since its publication in October 2007, the ideas of the Purple Book have been honed and elaborated in much detail. The effort and devotion of many ESRF staff resulted in a concrete plan for a Phase I of the Upgrade Programme in line with the funding capabilities of the ESRF Members and consolidated into national road maps for light source development.

This first of two phases will last seven years starting in 2009, and the overlapping phase will be submitted for consideration in due time to cover further developments until 2018. The budget envelope for Phase I includes 177 million Euros spread over seven years, of which 103 million Euros are additional funds with the remainder originating from the ESRF’s regular investment budget. The lion’s share of this will fund development of eight world-class beamlines unique in Europe, if not globally, housed in extensions to the current experimental hall (Figure 2). These new beamlines, targeted mostly at the exploitation of nano-focus beams, will be supported by new enabling technologies in areas like high precision optics and mechanics, detector and computing developments, and by improvements to the accelerator and X-ray source complex.

Fig. 2: Elements of the Upgrade Programme with the greatest part of funding being spent directly on new and improved beamlines and instrumentation. The area of the inner segments reflect the staff and recurrent costs, whilst the outer segment areas represent the capital investment costs.

The detailed definition of these elements of the Upgrade Programme has seen major progress in 2008, preparing the ground for the hard work to come over the next few years. The inclusion of the Upgrade Programme into the ESFRI road map for future large-scale infrastructures opened the door to a 5 million Euros grant from the Framework 7 Programme (FP7) of the European Commission to catalyse preparatory work – without which the design studies could not have pushed ahead as quickly whilst full approval was being sought. Tasks as diverse as feasibility studies for high-field magnets, data archiving, beamline conceptual and technical design reports, improved software for user management, use of the GRID for light sources and architect designs for the experimental hall extensions were all funded through this FP7 grant.

Buildings on their own rarely produce new science; the extensions to the existing experimental hall, necessary to house the long beamlines for nano-focussed beams, must be designed to minimum cost, whilst their civil engineering must interfere as little as possible with on-going user operations. It is important to maintain maximum access to the beamlines for the communities who rely on regular beam time. The detailed definition for the new buildings with the capacity to house up to fifteen long beamlines along with some support laboratories and office space, is therefore complex and time consuming, and these activities will continue well into 2009.


Fig. 3: Artist’s impression of the building extension design.

In spring 2008, an international architect competition was held, with the favourite design (Figure 3) now being updated with the latest scientific and budgetary requirements. Particular care and effort is being put into the design of the concrete slab to host the new beamlines as its vibrational stability is key to the beamlines meeting their design performance! Work included experiments like that of a 1.2 ton steel ball repeatedly being dropped on the ground in the centre of the ring to study how vibrations propagate across the site (Figure 4). Also, soil parameters were probed by test drillings at locations of future hall extensions. The coming year will be decisive as the designs for the buildings including the slabs will be finalised and the tendering of the contracts for construction will begin. The buildings are expected to be ready to move into starting from 2012.

Fig. 4: Vibrating the floor of the ESRF (February, 2008).

Much care will also be devoted to the selection of the eight new Upgrade beamlines. In May 2008, the SAC endorsed the selection of eleven candidate beamlines from which the eight phase I beamlines will be chosen. The eleven candidates (Table 1) have in turn been distilled from the total of over forty proposals outlined in the Purple Book.

Table 1: The eleven candidates for the Upgrade beamlines, honed from ideas in the Purple Book.

Brainstorming sessions with external experts and selected users were held, thanks to the FP7 grant, in the last months of 2008 to hone the science cases and explore the technological limits of the 11 candidate beamlines leading towards detailed technical design reports. Further guidance on the new beamlines will be given by the SAC at the meeting in May 2009.

In parallel, a large-scale exercise to map out a floor plan for the entire ESRF beamline portfolio was undertaken in 2008, identifying the locations of the new beamlines, with clustering of beamlines linked by science or support facilities whenever beneficial and feasible. The result was endorsed by the SAC in November 2008 and is an important step to creating the overall plan for all ESRF beamlines at the end of Phase I of the Upgrade. Not only will eight new beamlines be developed, but the entire portfolio of beamlines must be maintained and refurbished where necessary, benefitting from the new technologies developed as part of the Upgrade.

Also in November 2008, the SAC gave the green light for three candidate beamlines to already start detailed design work, moving them from conceptual design into technical design report phase. At subsequent meetings, further beamlines will move to the design phase. This staggered approach adds flexibility to the Upgrade Programme and allows the ESRF to react rapidly should important new needs for synchrotron light arrive on the horizon.

As the accelerator and X-ray source are another key element of the ESRF’s success, a particular effort will focus on maintaining both at the forefront. For example, several straight sections will be lengthened to increase their capacity and flexibility to host undulators, and the Klystron-based radio-frequency systems upgraded to semiconductor-based technology to improve reliability and prepare for a future increase in machine current. To this end, the development of a higher-mode-dampened prototype cavity began in 2008. Whereas 300 mA current in the storage ring remains an objective, implementation will ultimately also depend upon the cost of energy.

At the beamlines, the narrower nano-focus beams probing smaller samples will pose many technological challenges to the teams responsible for instrumentation, beam optics, sample preparation and sample manipulation. Also, tomorrow’s detectors will feature larger arrays with higher sensitivity and better resolution, requiring in turn progress to be made in data storage and pre-processing as well as in easy-to-use data processing. Many of these new technologies will be developed in collaboration with other light sources in Europe. This is why some of the brainstorming sessions in 2008 addressed these areas and involved experts from other light sources, securing the route to cooperation on these developments which are both lengthy and very costly.

Partnerships are another element of the Upgrade Programme. The users of light sources are not as homogenous a community as other users of large research infrastructures. Although this is one of the reasons for the exciting and dynamic environment at synchrotron light sources, it also means that users increasingly come from institutes or research laboratories without much technological or scientific background in photon science.

The Partnership for Structural Biology (PSB) has shown us how to integrate these users: a partnership in close vicinity to the ESRF and the ILL beamlines. For the PSB, the partners include the EMBL Grenoble Outstation and the French Institut de Biologie Structurale. A laboratory was set up offering a mix of techniques, science, and technology open to partners both local and distant. As this concept has now proven useful in lowering the entry threshold for users to specialised photon and neutron techniques, soft condensed matter is the next candidate field for such a partnership, again to be shared with ILL, and a first proposal has received a very positive reaction from the ESRF governing bodies.

With our neighbouring sister institute, the ILL, also embarking on its own upgrade programme, ILL 20/20, it is important to recognise the need for general improvements of the site on which both are established. Together, the ESRF and ILL have a considerable impact upon the local economy and on the international visibility of Grenoble as a scientific metropole. French regional and local authorities confirmed in 2008 an investment of 15 million Euros spread over four years into partnership buildings on the site, a new site entrance building, improved roads and a restaurant extension, new stores and goods reception and a visitors’ centre. In addition, Grenoble has been included into the national Campus programme which will, in the longer term, profoundly change the urban landscape in the neighbourhood of the ESRF through the addition of new laboratory and university buildings, housing and leisure facilities.

With the ESRF Upgrade, the ILL 20/20 programme, the investment in the site and the surrounding areas, the coming years will be an exciting time for the staff and the users of the ESRF as civil construction work and technology development will turn into new beamlines and facilities coming on-line. The new science these promise to deliver should keep the ESRF at the global forefront of light source development for more than a decade from now.


E. Mitchell and C. Habfast