This year’s Highlights contributions cover the fields of earth and planetary science, functional materials, and water and biological systems. As in previous years, the combination of different experimental techniques and/or theoretical simulations is an important ingredient. This is exemplified by the study of volcanic hotspots (X-ray diffraction and X-ray fluorescence), diluted magnetic semiconductors (EXAFS, hard X-ray photoemission spectroscopy, X-ray emission spectroscopy, and density functional theory (DFT)), PbZr1-xTixO3 (inelastic X-ray and diffuse scattering), and supramolecular Pt-tpy complexes (resonant X-ray emission spectroscopy and DFT). The X-ray diffraction studies of silicate perovskite and dolomite to 80 GPa witness the impressive progress in single crystal structure determination at very high pressures. The real-time observation of nanocrystalline growth and the ability to distinguish bulk and surface contributions illustrates the capabilities of nuclear resonance techniques. The temperature-dependent study of the oxygen K-edge in liquid water further fuels the controversial discussion on the number of hydrogen bonds in water, and gives a flavour of the kind of experiments which can be performed on the X-ray Raman spectrometer at ID20.

As in previous years, besides supporting a cutting edge scientific programme, substantial effort went into new instrumental and methodological developments. Many of these have been undertaken in close collaboration with groups of the Instrumentation Services and Development Division. To mention only a few of them: establishment of silicon crystal processing techniques to achieve close to theoretical performance of (high-energy resolution) crystal monochromators, a resistively heated diamond anvil cell for temperatures up to 1200 K, a new low-temperature (T = 5 – 300 K) high-pressure cryostat, and the implementation of a new Perkin-Elmer 2D detector for ID27.

The large volume press (LVP) was opened for public user access in September 2012, and first user experiments were successfully conducted. At present, the available beam time for peer-reviewed experiments with the LVP is 30% of the standard allocation time for an ESRF beamline, but it is planned to increase this amount to 50% in the near future.

The Upgrade Programme Beamline Project UPBL06 - Inelastic X-ray Scattering - located at ID20 has made excellent progress. The radiation tests of the lead hutches have been completed and all the main optical elements have been installed. The two spectrometers, for resonant IXS and X-ray Raman scattering, are in place and commissioning of the various beamline components is on-going. The current planning foresees the first user experiments in June 2013.

ID28 was reviewed in the autumn 2012 and received very positive feedback. The panel made several pertinent suggestions which are being taken into account by the beamline staff.

Finally, discussions started on the perspectives offered by a new storage ring with a largely reduced horizontal emittance. For the high-pressure beamlines ID09A and ID27, a flux increase of about 20 at the sample location is expected, while for the other beamlines of the group it is in particular the reduced horizontal source size (from 970 to 66 μm) which will offer new possibilities in the investigation of even smaller samples.

M. Krisch