The development of new technologies plays a fundamental role in meeting major societal challenges. New advanced materials and devices such as rechargeable batteries, catalytic materials, etc. form part of this development. The complexity of these heterogeneous devices can only be studied adequately by a combination of experimental methods, in order to reveal the interplay between the microscopic material properties and the macroscopic device performance. The following structure of materials highlights demonstrate the utility of synchrotron X-ray characterisation techniques for the study of both real devices under operating conditions and idealised model systems under precisely controlled environments.

The past year was again especially busy for the Structure of Materials Group. ID01 has now been reconstructed as the upgrade beamline project UPBL1, Diffraction imaging for nanoanalysis. The first coherent diffraction nano-imaging user experiments were carried out at the end of the year taking advantage of the enhanced nanofocus and coherence capabilities of this long beamline. Through optimisation of the source and the geometry of the monochromator, an increase of the coherent flux by a factor of 5 has been obtained right from the first startup of the beamline. Further optical elements will be added in 2015 allowing versatile optimisation of the total flux and beam size over a wide energy range. The high resolution powder diffraction beamline moved from ID31 to ID22 at the beginning of 2014 and it returned to user operation at the beginning of the summer. The flux has increased by a factor of 2.5 due to the reduced horizontal divergence at a high-β sector and its energy range now reaches 80 keV. Later this year, ID22 users will be able to benefit from the large area detector for complementary studies and from the new high-resolution diffractometer allowing future developments for enhanced detector systems.

The construction of upgrade beamline project UPBL2, the high energy beamline for buried interface structures and materials processing, started at ID31 in January 2014. The lead hutches are now ready and installation of the beamline components will soon commence. This long beamline with nanofocus capabilities extended to high photon energies will carry out the first user experiments in autumn 2015. The final beamline to be rebuilt in the current Phase I of the Upgrade Programme is ID15. At the moment, the old lead hutches are to be demolished, and by the end of 2015 the new hutches will be ready for the high pressure diffraction branch (relocation of ID09A) and for the material chemistry and engineering materials science branch. Due to the canting of the straight section, these two branches are independent.

The new buildings constructed during the first phase of the upgrade resulted in an increase in space available for the structure of materials group. In particular, an electrochemistry laboratory, under the responsibility of the ID03 team but open to all the users, is now operational in the new Lab and Office Building (LOB). In particular, it houses a new glove box dedicated to studies of Li batteries partly funded by the BM26-Dubble and BM1-Swiss Norwegian beamlines. The LOB also hosts a catalyst laboratory, providing new opportunities for materials chemistry studies at ESRF. Furthermore, a nanoscope instrument to exploit high energy nanofocus beams at ID11 will be ready later this year.

The beamline performance improvements already mentioned in addition to better detectors constitute a revolutionary enhancement in performance. This, together with the development of side laboratories should open a new chapter in the structure of materials studies at the ESRF and make it possible to attract an even greater community of users from both academia and industry.

V. Honkimäki