Dear Reader

2012 was an important year for the future of the ESRF. It was marked by activities that aimed at preserving the ESRF in the long term, in particular to maintain its leading role in synchrotron science on both a European and a worldwide level, and to guarantee that its user programme remains attractive and continues to strengthen in the foreseeable future.

  F. Sette  


Halfway through Phase I of the Upgrade Programme

The difficulties we were confronted with in 2010-2011 imposed a timely re-thinking of the whole Upgrade Programme. A beneficial consequence is that the Upgrade Programme will now deliver a substantially enhanced suite of instruments capable of addressing major scientific challenges where prime X-ray science is expected to provide new insights, particularly in the domains of condensed matter, materials science, and life sciences. This opportunity to develop a substantially new X-ray science - coupling diffraction and spectroscopy methods with real space imaging and microscopy techniques at resolutions well below those obtainable with optical wavelengths - is already offering both interesting and promising results in areas of basic and applied research, including innovative industrial studies. New instruments at the ESRF promise to improve diffraction and spectroscopy experiments further by increasing beam brightness, overall experiment stability and reliability, with gains of several orders of magnitude foreseen. The full revision of the beamline portfolio has now been completed and already new and revised beamlines are being made available to our users. Similarly, important accelerator upgrades have been commissioned this year, while others have been put through their proof of principle testing. These include the successful commissioning of the new solid-state amplifier towers, the lattice modifications to install 6-metre and 7-metre vacuum chambers in the storage ring straight sections and the new radio-frequency HOM-damped cavities. Following the firm recommendation from the SAC at the end of 2011, the new topping-up injection strategy is currently in progress.



Return to user operation after an exceptionally long shutdown

2012 started with an exceptionally long five-month shutdown of the accelerator complex to allow extensive and disruptive works for the construction of the new EX2 experimental halls as well as major interventions in the storage ring tunnel. This was the longest interruption in beam delivery since the start of operation of the ESRF’s storage ring in 1992. As a consequence, user operation was reduced, with approximately 30% less beam time available compared to a normal year. The restart was successful and user operation (USM) resumed according to the most optimistic expectations despite the many “unknowns” linked to the works. Major realignment of the storage ring and beamlines had to be implemented following the disruptive work, ground excavations and ground subsidence. Approximately 32,000 tonnes of earth were displaced on the site provoking relative movements of the X-ray beams of up to 10 mm peak-to-peak.

Taking advantage of the long shutdown, a new structure for the Beam Time Allocation Panels (BTAPs) was set up with the aim of increasing the efficiency and transparency of the whole beam time allocation process. This major change was successfully implemented by the User Office with the support of the ESRF’s IT Support Services in October 2012 for proposals for the 2013-I period. Comments received from the panels and the Science Advisory Committee members about this new system have been very positive.


The Long-Term Strategic Mission of the ESRF was reviewed by the ad hoc working group created by the ESRF Council

This working group, chaired by the Vice-Chairman of Council, Prof Michel van der Rest, was composed of experts nominated directly by the ESRF Council. The mission of the working group was to provide a critical review and assessment of the long-term strategic mission and role of the ESRF in X-ray science. The report was presented to the ESRF Council at its plenary meeting in November 2012, at which time it was adopted. It has since been published on the ESRF web site and is available for downloading. With its far-reaching and very exciting recommendations for the ESRF, this document is now a key reference to inspire and define the scope of the ESRF in the foreseeable future; it will serve as a guide for the ESRF Management when implementing the scientific and technical policy over the coming years. The report takes into account the very competitive European and international environment of synchrotron science, including analytical research infrastructures such as XFELs and new neutron sources. The fundamental questions being addressed concern the strategic choices that the ESRF needs to make in order to remain attractive to its increasingly large and diversified user community, and to continue to represent an undisputable added value for all contributing countries. During 2012 this working group compiled information from experts, ESRF users and staff, and from other synchrotron laboratories in Europe and abroad.



Preparation has started for the Upgrade Programme Phase II

Important work started in 2012 on the preparation of the technical and scientific case of the Upgrade Programme Phase II, with new ideas for unique and innovative technical implementations driven by the very strong and broad scientific case developed in detail in 2007, which is presented in the Purple Book. In this respect, the ESRF’s commitment to studying realistic possibilities that could qualitatively improve the X-ray source has allowed scientists of the Accelerator and Source Division to identify a new storage ring lattice design that would considerably reduce the horizontal emittance (from the present 4 nm to ~0.1 nm). This would lead to an increase in brightness and degree of coherence of the X-ray beams almost inversely proportional to the proposed reduction of horizontal emittance. Contrary to vertical emittance, the horizontal emittance is far from being diffraction-limited. This work has refuelled, once again, the long-standing worldwide reflection on how to build a new generation of “diffraction-limited” storage ring lattices. The proposal from the Accelerator and Source Division consists of a major upgrade of the present storage ring, leading to a brightness even greater than a factor of 50 in the ESRF’s specific hard X-ray region. A white paper laying down the fundamentals of Phase II of the Upgrade Programme was prepared and presented to the ESRF Council in November 2012. This document was well-received by the ESRF Council and is now available on the ESRF’s web site. It constitutes the basis for the preparation of a full scientific and technical case study to be included in a Technical Design Study (TDS). This TDS will be prepared by the ESRF Management with the help and advice of the ESRF users, Science Advisory Committee and Administrative and Finance Committee, and will be submitted for decision to the ESRF Council in June 2014. According to the present preliminary planning, Phase II could be launched as initially foreseen in 2015 for a five-year period ending in 2019. During this period the ESRF would operate with the present source until the third quarter of 2018 when it would be closed to user operation for approximately one year, until autumn 2019. Following a commissioning period, USM would resume with the new source at the end of 2019.


New and present partners invest in the bright future of the ESRF

The attraction of the ESRF continues to grow and can be seen in the interest shown by new countries to set up formal associations despite the difficult economic situation worldwide. The ESRF Council and Management are working hard to develop these relations and are reviewing the level of participation of the existing partners with a view to improving the present balance between the partners’ financial contributions and their scientific use of the ESRF. This is not only a very important condition for ensuring the long-term stability of the ESRF’s financial resources, but it should also ensure that the fundamental principle of access to beam time is open to everybody and is based on the scientific excellence of the proposals.

The structure of this scientific highlights report is similar to last year’s. It emphasises the dual mission to which the ESRF is committed over the next few years: the Upgrade Programme and the operation of the facility. As in previous years, it contains many examples of the impressive science carried out at the ESRF. Despite the reduced amount of beam time available, 2012 was a very productive year with almost two thousand refereed publications in scientific journals. In particular, in May 2012, the total number of publications from work carried out at the ESRF since the beginning of USM in 1994 reached the record value of 20,000 publications!

On behalf of the ESRF user community and staff, I wish to congratulate the laureates of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, Robert J. Lefkowitz and Brian K. Kobilka who jointly received the award for “studies of G-protein-coupled receptors”. I also wish to proudly share with you the information that key structural studies on this fundamentally important family of proteins were carried out by Prof. Kobilka as a user of the ESRF’s beamlines ID13 and ID23-2, where he amply benefited from these at-the-time-unique structural biology microfocus beamlines!

This report also provides a summary of the main activities carried out at the ESRF in 2012. A large part of this work was centred around, and was intimately linked to, the points briefly outlined above.

Some important changes took place within the ESRF’s Management, with key players leaving the ESRF and new ones arriving. I am pleased to announce that the ESRF Management is once again complete. I am very glad to welcome the new Director of Administration, Dr. Luis Sanchez Ortiz, and the new Director of Research for Life Sciences, Prof. Bauke Dijkstra from the University of Groningen. Both started their terms of office at the ESRF in September 2012. Similarly, I wish to warmly thank Dr. Harald Reichert, Director of Research for Physical Sciences, who assumed the role of acting Director of Research for Life Sciences until the arrival of Bauke. Finally, in 2012, the ESRF welcomed a new Science Advisory Committee made up of many new members with a very impressive range of scientific expertise, headed by its Chairman Prof. K. Hämäläinen from the University of Helsinki.

All things considered, the ESRF is in good shape, and has very bright plans for the future which, if carried out, will ensure world-class scientific opportunities for its strong and diversified user community for many years to come.

The year 2012 was significant in that it laid down the first stones of the path towards the ESRF of the next twenty years. Continuing on from these important decisions, I wish to highlight that of all the actions that will shape the future ESRF, a very important one – perhaps the most important one – will be, in my opinion, to ensure that the ESRF remains attractive for the younger generations of scientists, engineers, technicians and administrators. Therefore the ESRF is engaged in rendering the facility as attractive as possible to them. This includes our commitment, in the context of a worldwide effort, to increase opportunities for students at both graduate and undergraduate levels in scientific and technical disciplines.

I wish to conclude this foreword by thanking the very many people who contributed to the successes of the ESRF in 2012. In particular, I wish to thank the members of the scientific, technical, administrative, and financial panels for their help and advice, and the Council delegates for their guidance and continued support. Special thanks go to all ESRF users for their wonderful scientific work and critical engagement in supporting the ESRF, and to all my colleagues at the ESRF for their particularly hard work and exceptional motivation in supporting simultaneously the operation of the facility and the realisation of the Upgrade Programme.


Francesco Sette,
ESRF Director General.