Franceso Sette

Franscesco SETTE

It is a great pleasure to present the 2016 issue of the ESRF Highlights to you. As I look back over the past year, I never cease to be impressed by the engagement of our international user community and by its impressive scientific productivity, as well as by the commitment of the ESRF staff in supporting the user programme and the facility. I invite you to enjoy a taste of our science in this report as well as the scientific and technological progress realised in 2016.

2016 has been a very productive and important year for the ESRF.

As in its previous 23 years of operation, the ESRF machine delivered another year of high quality, reliable and stable beam thanks to a continuous and dynamic research – development – refurbishment - maintenance programme.  Since last April, user operation benefits from the new “top-up” storage ring injection mode, which is proving to be particularly beneficial for users who rely on the ESRF timing modes. It allows a substantially higher average intensity at low vertical emittance. The overall 2016 delivery, currently in line with best-year statistics, enabled an excellent operation of the beamlines and gave outstanding scientific results.

2016 was also an exceptional year for the user programme with an increase of around 10% in the number of submitted user proposals. In 2016, the ESRF was also able to support a record number of experimental sessions: approximately 1820 scheduled at the time of writing, corresponding to about 10% more than our previous record year in 2009. This result is even more striking if we consider that two public beamlines are closed until the end of 2022, and some of the beamlines were not fully operational in 2016. This increase is a direct consequence of our renewed beamline portfolio, which – thanks to the Upgrade Programme Phase I – allows not only new scientific investigation but also shorter and more effective experiments, thereby resulting in the observed increased number of experimental sessions.

The ESRF-Extremely Brilliant Source programme - the ESRF-EBS – is, overall, on schedule. Most importantly, the project is well off the starting blocks and substantial progress has been made on both the accelerator and experimental sides.

The accelerator project team is fulfilling its objectives in terms of procurement, pre-series activities for the new storage ring, and initiating the in-house assembly of a critical dipole magnet family based on a revolutionary design fully developed at the ESRF. The first pre-series magnet and girder components have arrived on site, and some of them can be seen in the Chartreuse Hall. The Accelerator Project Office is now focussing its efforts on procurement follow-up, component design finalisation and on the organisation of the logistics aspects required for the forthcoming assembly and installation phases.

The EBS experimental programme is also taking shape. Based on 48 Expressions of Interest received from the scientific community at large and from the ESRF users by March 2016, about eight projects have been identified by the ESRF’s Science Advisory Committee (SAC) and ESRF scientists as being very promising and with the potential to evolve into new state-of-the-art beamlines and instruments. Expert teams have been identified for each of these projects, with a mandate to draft Conceptual Design Reports (CDRs). These CDRs were presented and discussed with the scientific community at a dedicated workshop which was held in December 2016. The aim of these combined efforts is to enable the ESRF SAC and Council, in 2017, to express a consolidated view of the best scientific opportunities with the new EBS storage ring at the ESRF, and to specify the priorities for future EBS beamlines in the context of the existing ones and of the portfolio developed during the ESRF Upgrade Programme Phase I.

Similarly, during the last few months, important progress has been made in the procedure and technical aspects linked to the future ESRF and CRG beamlines on today’s dipole magnet (BM) front ends. Source characteristics have been identified and settled, existing CRG beamlines have been endorsed by the SAC and Council for their continuation with the new storage ring source, and the planning for their upgrade and adaptation is going ahead.

The stakes are high but so are the rewards. The successful completion of ESRF-EBS will not only consolidate the position of the ESRF as a global leader in a new generation of synchrotron sources but will result in the writing of a new chapter in X-ray science. All this is possible, thanks to the experience and the engagement of the ESRF staff, in all of its Divisions. It is also possible, thanks to the strong engagement of the ESRF users, and of the 21 ESRF partner countries that continue to support the entire ESRF programme financially. In this respect, I wish to underline our gratitude to France for providing an exceptional financial contribution to the ESRF-EBS in the context of the ongoing CPER programme. It is also rewarding to note the interest of new and existing partner countries in accessing or strengthening their participation in the ESRF.

The work carried out at the ESRF and the quality of its results and contributions are widely recognised internationally. An illustration of this is the inclusion of the ESRF-EBS Programme as one of the eight new European Landmarks in the ESFRI Roadmap Update, published in March 2016. Similarly, I wish to mention that the new ESRF storage ring lattice has established a new standard for present and future synchrotron centres, as demonstrated by its wide adoption in the future construction of new synchrotrons and in the upgrade plans of existing ones in Europe and worldwide.

The greatest impact of the ESRF is in contributing to science and to the advancement of human knowledge by promoting the use of synchrotron radiation. In this respect, we are very pleased that the three 2016 Nobel Prizes for the advancement of science (Physics, Chemistry, and Medicine and Physiology) were granted to studies that all benefit from synchrotron work and applications, and that the Chemistry Nobel Laureate, Prof. J.L. Sauvage from the Strasbourg University “L. Pasteur”, appears on key papers using the ESRF. Furthermore, the ESRF is also deeply engaged in providing services to industry and innovation, and in supporting programmes to interest and educate the younger generations in scientific and technological careers. Besides the approximately 130 positions dedicated each year to undergraduate trainees, PhD students, post-doctoral fellows, and junior scientists, the ESRF continues to support: 1) The HERCULES School for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, 2) the ESRF-ILL summer school for undergraduate students, and 3) the programme “Synchrotron@school”, in partnership with the “Académie de Grenoble”, dedicated to pupils in scientific and technical secondary schools.

All in all, the ESRF is succeeding in creating a unique international hub for staff, visitors, users and young people, which makes spending time at the ESRF tremendously interesting and productive. By bringing together different cultures, points of view and working methods, we can overcome the challenges facing our modern world and prove that scientific advancement knows no frontiers, and is for the benefit of all humankind.

I wish to end by thanking the ESRF users, to whom this new issue of the ESRF Highlights is dedicated, for their support and to congratulate them for the excellent science that they carry out at the ESRF.

Francesco Sette
Director General, ESRF