The year 2013 has brought many changes to the Electronic Structure and Magnetism Group. After nearly 12 years as Group Head, Nick Brookes has stepped down as from the 1st October. As former Deputy and on behalf of the whole group, I would like to thank Nick for his outstanding guidance and commitment. It will be a big challenge for me to take over from him.

The structure of the Group has also been slightly modified. The high brilliance X-ray spectroscopy beamline ID26 has joined our group this year. ID26 offers a combination of XAS, XES and RIXS spectroscopy methods, covering many different areas such as mineralogy/geology, catalysis, materials science, magnetism, biology and cultural heritage. ID26 complements other beamlines in the group, extending the ID08 RIXS activity towards the hard X-rays, and the BM23 XAS activity towards higher dilution and higher energy resolution. Moreover, XES and RIXS at ID26 combined with time resolved XAS on ID24 and BM23 provide an ideal platform for in situ and operando studies of catalysts. These three beamlines not only share labs and equipment, but also a number of common user groups.

This year also marks an important benchmark for beamline ID12, which was successfully reviewed in November. High pressure XAS and XMCD studies at very low energies appear as one of the most exciting new emerging areas of application for ID12, complementing the extreme conditions activities on ID24 and BM23. And not surprisingly, the year 2013 has seen the start of collaboration between beamline staff in the area of high pressure research.

Clearly, all these happenings during the year 2013 have increased the synergy between the different beamlines in the Group.

Another major event this year was the closure of ID08, scheduled within the ESRF Upgrade Programme, to be replaced by the Upgrade beamline project UPBL7, which is being built at ID32. After nearly 19 years of operation (summing the lifetime at ports ID12B and ID08) this beamline was closed in October and immediately dismantled. The major components of UPBL7 have all been delivered. As the year comes to an end, in the new experimental hall facing the Belledonne chain, the 10 m RIXS spectrometer has just been moved successfully for the first time on air pads. Most of the components of the optics hutch have been mounted and aligned and are ready for vacuum conditioning in January, when the last mirrors will take their place. If all goes as planned, ID32 will take first beam in February, and full user operation is foreseen for the end of 2014. At that point, with both UPBL11 and UPBL7 in operation, Upgrade Phase I will be over for the ESM Group. But, we are already actively involved in the definition of the science case for Phase II and in particular for two out of the five selected themes: “nano and man-made materials” and “extreme conditions”.

During this year of transition from Phase I to Phase II, producing scientific results has remained our core activity and has continued at full speed. In the pages that follow, we have included our choice of some of the most exciting topics of research from the beamlines in 2013. A large variety of different scientific fields are covered: from bacteria and catalysts (articles 1-3), to bulk metallic glasses, luminescent materials, superconductors and ferrimagnets (articles 4-7). Studies of two dimensional systems for novel materials with high potential for future devices and characterised by complex interplay between charge, orbital and spin degrees of freedom continue to represent a large portion of the activity of the Group (articles 8-11). The last article of our chapter, from the XMaS CRG beamline, also falls into this category. Here X-ray magnetic scattering was employed in the discovery of a simple mechanism for controlling magnetic order in magnetoelectrics.

S. Pascarelli