One of our major preoccupations during 2005 has been the development of a long-term strategy for the ESRF. The ESRF looks forward regularly with a five year horizon via the Medium-Term Scientific Plan with, for example, the on-going programme of beamline reviews that result in the refurbishment of several beamlines each year.  After well over a decade of User operation, the time had come for a serious appraisal of the scientific and technical challenges facing the ESRF on a time-scale of ten to twenty years. With a large number of new national medium-energy (third generation) sources operating or in construction, the present synchrotron radiation landscape in Europe is very different from that at the time of the ESRF’s inauguration. The preparation of a preliminary document, New Scientific Opportunities at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility [1],  has involved discussion with a very large number of interested parties both within and external to the ESRF. This document was received with enthusiasm by the ESRF Science Advisory Committee (SAC) and Council in November 2005.

The basic aim of the Long-Term Strategy is to maintain the ESRF as Europe’s principal provider of “hard” X-rays (that is between about 8 and 500 keV) with specialised beamlines allowing internationally-leading innovative science. The scientific case for a renewed and upgraded ESRF emphasises the speciality of the ESRF for “cutting-edge” research, complementary to the new national sources. Five broad scientific areas are considered, namely:

  • nano-science and nano-technology
  • pump-probe experiments and time-resolved diffraction
  • science at extreme conditions
  • structural and functional biology and soft matter
  • X-ray imaging

It is clear that one of the most rapidly-expanding and dynamic research areas is that of nanoscience and nanotechnology.  Synchrotron radiation in general, and the ESRF in particular, has a crucial role to play in these fields, with the provision of fine focus X-ray beams (down to less than 50 nm) with very high intensity. The high stability and reliable operation of the ESRF’s X-ray source will be essential prerequisites for applications that push back the nanoscience frontiers. Many pioneering experiments have been carried out at the ESRF using novel time-resolved diffraction techniques to study chemical bonding and biological systems. These studies are expected to expand enormously with the development of the new X-ray free-electron laser sources, but in the interim period optimised ESRF beamlines will permit exciting science on the picosecond timescale.  Science at extremes of temperature and pressure has become another speciality of the ESRF and we wish to develop these capabilities to ever more extreme values.  Very high magnetic fields, combined with extreme temperature and pressure, will open up new scientific horizons.

The continuing revolution in biology is leading to the need for highly-automated nanofocus beamlines to handle membrane proteins and macromolecular assemblies for which even micrometre-size crystals cannot be grown.  We foresee a rapid growth in the use of advanced small-angle scattering techniques applied to interdisciplinary science at the soft-condensed matter/life science border. This is a field where the many variants of X-ray imaging are developing rapidly. The ESRF has always been at the forefront in X-ray imaging and we see these techniques becoming of increasing importance in new areas of medicine, environmental sciences and the human heritage sciences.

The main elements of the upgrade and renewal programme to allow the new science introduced briefly above are:

  • the reconstruction of about one third of the beamlines to give improved performance and routine nanofocus capabilities
  • the extension of about one third of the Experimental Hall so that long (~ 120 m) beamlines can be constructed with nanometre focused spots
  • the upgrade of the accelerator complex, with higher beam current and a continuing effort to enhance the very high brilliance and reliability of the X-ray source
  • the design of a new higher brightness lattice, working towards the ”ultimate”  third generation storage ring X-ray source
  • the development of advanced synchrotron radiation instrumentation, underpinning the beamline and source improvements
  • the development of science-driven partnerships to enable new science and applications

Many of these upgrades are natural extensions of the on-going development programmes at the ESRF.  For example, the beamlines ID11 and ID13 are being extended for micro- and nanofocus applications, with experimental hutches external to the main experimental Hall (see Figure 1 inset: photo of the ID13 extension). The new Multilayer Laboratory (see Figure 1: photo of Multilayer Lab) with its state of the art fabrication and characterisation facilities reflects the in-house commitment to provide improved focussing multilayer mirrors.

Fig. 1: Multilayer Laboratory and (inset) ID13 extension (December 2005).

The next steps in the further refinement of the ESRF Long-Term Strategy are detailed discussions at the forthcoming Users’ Meeting in February 2006, followed by the preparation of an updated paper to be presented to the SAC and Council in May and June respectively. With Council’s approval we can then work on a fully-costed upgrade programme for the ESRF to start in 2007 or 2008.

Returning to the year that has just ended, you will see that the Highlights 2005 summarises a year of general success and progress for the ESRF.  Despite some serious water leak problems with the Machine, availability remained at a very high level (97.6% compared to 98.0% in 2004); we have initiated a programme to replace faulty elements, notably the “crotch” absorbers. Once again, our Users demonstrated their support of and interest in the ESRF with a record number of proposals; in 2005 there were 1881 proposals for beamtime. Publication levels remain very high; a total of more than 1200 refereed papers on work at the ESRF were published in 2004. A large number of these papers appeared in the most prestigious scientific journals, demonstrating the quality of the science that is carried out at the ESRF. 

We hope that you find the Highlights 2005 interesting and informative and we look forward to an important renewal of the ESRF over the next few years through the Long-Term Strategy programme. 

This volume of the Highlights is dedicated to our friend and colleague Paolo Carra, who died in October. Paolo was a distinguished and innovative scientist who is very sadly missed.

W.G. Stirling, P. Elleaume, R. Dimper, H. Krech, S. Larsen, M. Rodriguez Castellano, F. Sette, P. Thiry, K. Witte
(January 2006)




[1] Obtainable at