As in the previous years, this chapter presents a diverse set of articles related to the Soft Matter field published during the last year. A particular feature of this selection of highlights is the maturity attained by different techniques which now reveal unprecedented details. The first article, by Kim et al., shows the advancement of pump-probe solution scattering that has permitted the reconstruction of three-dimensional molecular envelopes of the microsecond range protein intermediates involved in the photocycle of photoactive yellow protein. The second example, by Bressel et al., demonstrates that the insight gained from time-resolved SAXS experiments could be utilised for the rational design of self-assembled unilamellar vesicles with controllable size and long-term stability. The XPCS technique has reached a new level of sensitivity that allowed Orsi et al. to derive even the fourth-order time-correlation function from a two-dimensional gel of a Langmuir monolayer of nanoparticles formed at an air-water interface. Time resolved GISAXS enabled Vegso et al. to capture a transient compression phase in a Langmuir film of nanoparticles upon continuous increase of surface pressure.

The article by Liu et al. illustrates that the flurry of discoveries of new liquid-crystal phases with T-shaped “bolaamphiphiles” go uninterrupted. Weinhausen et al. demonstrate that nanodiffraction with a complex biological specimen does yield results. Finally, new light is shed on crystallisation pathways in globular proteins (Zhang et al.) and polymers (Cavallo et al.). Within the space restriction, there are some notable omissions in this chapter, these include two-state rapid assembly mechanism of SV40 virus-like particles [S. Kler et al., JACS 134, 8823 (2012)] , conformational changes of haemoglobin observed within red blood cells following laser flash photolysis [A. Spilotros et al., Soft Matter 8, 6434 (2012)], etc.

Among the technical developments, ID10 has completed a major refurbishment with two end-stations for soft interfaces and coherent scattering coming to successful operation. The preparatory work for UPBL9a (ID02) is progressing well. The existing ID02 beamline will be closed in July and the upgraded beamline is expected to be reopened in May 2014. The technical design report for UPBL9b (ID09 Time Resolved) has been completed. Finally, the formal collaboration contract between ESRF and ILL for the Partnership for Soft Condensed Matter (PSCM) has been signed. The Science Building is nearing completion on schedule and the full scale operation of the PSCM in expected to begin in the second half of 2013. At present, the PSCM is actively seeking collaborative partners from academia and industry. In addition, enhanced services are offered to industrial customers for selected techniques (SAXS/WAXS and microdiffraction) in an effort to promote better use of synchrotron radiation in soft materials industrial R&D.

T. Narayanan