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High-school groups in STEM

For scientific high-school pupils, the day begins with a research project for each group of 3-4 students. In the morning session, students are presented with a problem. Through practical workshops, they have to find a solution based on a scientific case, and a type of experiment conducted at the ESRF.

At the end of the day, the different groups of students are invited to communicate their experimental method and the results of their research work. They are advised on how to create a scientific poster and an oral presentation.

The programme also includes a tour of one of the 44 beamlines* and informal meetings with scientists from the ESRF.

*A beamline is an experimental station at the ESRF. Find out how the ESRF works.

Details of the projects

One of the main activities of the day at Synchrotron@School is the realisation by the students of scientific hands-on experiments. In small groups (most often in teams of 3 or 4), they work together to find an answer to one of the three problems described below:


This activity calls on one of the three main research techniques at the ESRF: diffraction. This technique is used for the structural study of matter, especially in protein crystallography.

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In this workshop, students discover or deepen their knowledge of the phenomenon of diffraction, the way it works and its interest for scientists. Due to different school programmes, this project exists in two versions:

  • Discovery version

This project offers students a discovery of the phenomena of diffraction and interferences. As a group, they must determine the geometric structure of a sample of curtain material.

For this, an optical bench and different-sized slits are available. By observing the diffraction patterns obtained with the different widths of interposed slits, the color of the laser used or even with double slits, students deduce the basic properties of the phenomenon. From the diffraction pattern obtained by sending the laser light through the curtain sample, the students can deduce its physical geometric structure.

  • Advanced version

This project offers students a practical application of their knowledge of diffraction. Through investigation, they have to answer the question: Is  this storage device a CD, a DVD or a Blu-ray Disc?

To tackle the question, the students can use an optical bench with different slits, double-slits and a fragment of the storage device. Experimentally, and based on  the diffraction pattern obtained, the group determines the total length of the track. This  data that students deduce the nature of the device.


This activity calls on one of the three main research techniques of the ESRF: spectroscopy. This technique is particularly used to study the elementary constitution of materials: for example, the study of the composition of paint in Van Gogh’s paintings.

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In this project, students discover the phenomena of fluorescence and phosphorescence and use spectroscopy techniques.

A solution is exposed to ultraviolet light causing it to emit light. The students have to determine the nature of the molecule responsible for emitting the light.

To solve the question, the students work on introductory activities to discover the properties of fluorescence and phosphorescence, and their differences. The students must then, using a spectrophotometer, propose an experimental protocol and determine the nature of the molecule in the solution provided.


This activity calls on one of the three main research techniques of the ESRF: imaging. For example, imaging techniques using synchrotron radiation are used in the field of palaeontology.

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In this project, students study heat transfer in different materials using a thermal imaging camera.

This project puts students in the position of a researcher in the R&D activity of a sports brand. Their task is to find the best  material for the creation of warm clothing.

For this, students have different materials at their disposal and a thermal imaging camera. Some introductory activities are proposed for the study of heat transfers. The  group then has to propose  an experimental protocol which will enable them to determine which material, or combination of materials, is most appropriate in the given context.