F. Sette

Dear Reader

The ESRF storage ring returned to full User Service Mode (USM) operation for 2013, delivering 5544 hours of beamtime, with enhanced performance and many new features. Excellent day-to-day facility operation is indeed a key element to ensure that the scientific productivity of the ESRF continues to be very high. Our users, working closely with ESRF staff, have again achieved many world-class scientific results. The scientific output, with about 1800 scientific publications, including the most prestigious journals, is as high as in previous years and our beamlines continue to be overbooked, in many cases very heavily.

An extensive programme of new buildings has been completed

In parallel to the routine operation of the facility, construction of three more upgrade beamlines began as part of the first phase of the ESRF Upgrade Programme. This programme continues to progress according to plan. Another major milestone of the upgrade in 2013 was the successful completion of the EX2 project, with the delivery of two new large experimental halls, laboratories and offices, the ESRF visitor centre, and amenities to enhance the quality of the daily life of ESRF users and staff. In both new experimental halls, the construction of the upgrade beamlines started on the very day they were handed over to the ESRF. The EX2 project included numerous challenges, not least a very tight schedule and budget. Both were met in addition to strict technical specifications, in particular for the long-term and vibrational stability of the concrete floor.

A project to improve the building infrastructure of the European Photon and Neutron (EPN) science campus, which the ESRF shares with the ILL and the EMBL, has been brought very close to completion. Early in 2014, a new site entrance will be inaugurated along with a renovated and enlarged canteen in the Common Building. The new Science Building close to the road bridge across the ESRF storage ring will be inaugurated in February. This building will host joint ESRF-ILL activities in soft matter science, business development with industrial users, the joint library and the Theory Group. It will also provide joint support laboratories for the benefit of users, staff and collaborators. In March 2014, it will be connected to the Experimental Hall via a dedicated foot bridge.

The EPN science campus is steadily improving its visibility, creating many new opportunities, particularly for young scientists. This is also possible thanks to the efforts of, and enhanced collaboration with, our colleagues at the ILL, the EMBL, and the Institut de Biologie Structurale (IBS). The IBS has just recently moved into its new premises on the campus. Thanks to the new site infrastructure buildings and the vegetation and landscaping plan to be concluded in spring 2014, the campus is gradually becoming a more beautiful place in which to work.

Three years of building activities, both on our site and in the surrounding areas, have not always been easy to deal with, and I thank both users and staff for their continuous engagement to cope with this exceptional situation.

Support from Members and Associates continues to motivate the ESRF

The global economic context, including the situation throughout Europe, has not changed over the past twelve months, and probably will not qualitatively improve in 2014. Despite the difficult scenario, we were very pleased to welcome the Republic of South Africa in May 2013, which joined the ESRF on a five-year arrangement. We also applauded the decision of Israel to renew its Scientific Association with the ESRF at an increased value, just as the Republic of Austria did last year. We are also very pleased that Portugal has renewed its agreement and that Centralsync should follow shortly. Exceptional measures with respect to our funding have had to be prolonged until the end of 2014, although at a slightly improved level, and by the end of 2014 we hope to be able to reach a secure and stable financial context in the medium term, possibly with a return to our full level of funding.

New opportunities for scientific discovery thanks to new and improved beamlines

Many of the scientific results presented in the following pages would not have been possible a few years ago. The performance of synchrotron beamlines continues to increase steadily on a global scale. Experiments, and discoveries that were thought impossible not long ago are now becoming reality. The pages of these 2013 Highlights are mainly focussed on providing the reader with a synthesis of the science enabled by these new opportunities.

The ESRF beamline portfolio comprised important improvements in 2013, notably in the existing experimental hall. The new Inelastic X-ray Scattering Upgrade Beamline ID20 started user operation with world-breaking performance. The Upgrade Beamline NINA on ID16 is being commissioned and is close to starting full user operation mode. Several other major refurbishments have come on line such as the new optics for ID19, and the installation of large-area-pixel-detector systems at several diffraction beamlines. These improvements often have a twofold impact: they enable a higher throughput and experiments that were not possible before.

One of the biggest upgrade beamline projects is the “Village” for Structural Biology around ID30, where the next generation of automation is being developed. In 2013, the final technological choices were made, and tested for fully automated screening of crystals. The first station using this new very demanding technology should come on line for users in the summer of 2014.

Machine, beamlines and instrumentation are maintained at world-class level

Throughout 2013, the accelerators and X-ray source have continued to provide a very stable and reliable operation, with the final run of 2013 coming very close to 100% delivery. Important improvements in view to securing world-class levels of performance and reliability continued throughout the year. The storage ring now houses three novel design prototypes of radio-frequency (RF) cavities, fed by state-of-the-art semiconductor RF amplifiers, which perform fully according to specifications. The replacement of the existing cavities with the new ones will continue in the coming years, as these new cavities are of key importance for future storage ring improvements: indeed, these upgrades are an early investment in view of the second phase of the Upgrade Programme.

In 2013, the machine was for the first time operated in top-up mode during several days of machine dedicated time. These tests included delivery of beam to several beamlines hosting users, and they were a complete success. A detailed analysis of the results is now under way, so that the possibility of introducing top-up mode operation at the ESRF can be discussed in 2014 with the SAC and the users.

Preparations for the Upgrade Programme Phase II are in full swing

Last but not least, and indeed of primary importance for our future, is the work started during the last few years to prepare the second phase of the ESRF Upgrade Programme. The cornerstone of the second phase is the construction and commissioning of a new storage ring lattice with qualitatively improved features in terms of X-ray beam brightness and coherence, and with reduced environmental impact. This will enhance the ESRF’s leadership in synchrotron science and keep the laboratory at the forefront for many years to come. The objective of the ESRF is to prepare this phase until mid-2014 through a detailed technical design report to be submitted for critical scrutiny to the ESRF Science Advisory Committee (SAC), Accelerator Programme Advisory Committee (APAC), Administrative and Finance Committee (AFC), and Council. According to the present planning, the implementation of Phase II should be launched in January 2015 with the objective to deliver USM with the renewed storage ring by 2020. With the help of these committees, the work on the scientific programme of Phase II saw good progress in 2013, as well as the critical analysis of the technologies to be developed to ensure the optimal use of the new source; particular attention is being devoted to new detector technologies and data handling strategies. Similarly, the technical and implementation aspects of the new storage ring are under study and are greatly advancing. The new accelerator lattice concept developed at the ESRF, which greatly reflects the Long Term Strategic Mission of the ESRF reviewed by the Council in 2012, has been validated by international benchmarking and is now being adopted by many other world-leading synchrotron facilities. The Phase II of the Upgrade Programme is a new and exciting challenge for everybody at the ESRF, in addition to the operation of the facility and the completion of Upgrade Phase I.

The Council endorsed and supported the progress and the strategic path developed by the ESRF on the long-term vision of our laboratory at its meeting in November 2013. We hope, therefore, that today’s efforts are preparing the ground for a positive decision in 2014 on the launch of the Upgrade Programme Phase II with its new storage ring project.

The ESRF is a major player in society and synchrotron science

The ESRF returns a lot to society. This includes, of course, the advancement of scientific knowledge, but also contributions towards major societal challenges, such as education and training of the next generation, and contributing to industrial innovation. A recently published brochure highlights the impact of the ESRF Upgrade Programme which has only been possible thanks to the expertise, commitment and motivation of the ESRF staff, its users and the scientific community. We are proud to present these results to the governments of our Member and Scientific Associate Countries, and we thank them for their continued support.

In parallel, the ESRF is also playing an important role in the global synchrotron landscape. It continues to be seen as a role model for efficient operation and global leadership, and numerous delegations from existing and future facilities visited Grenoble in 2013 to learn more. This leadership role also has a technical side, covering, for example, coordination of detector developments across Europe and developing beamline control software to be shared with other synchrotrons. We are therefore honoured that the European Commission has entrusted the ESRF with the management of the 17 Million Euro CRISP programme, where 11 European research infrastructures jointly study key technologies for tomorrow’s accelerators, instrumentation and data processing.

At its meeting in November 2013, the ESRF Council elected Bertrand Girard and Miguel Ángel García Aranda as its new Chair and Vice-Chair for the period 2014-2016. Their predecessors, Jean Moulin as Chair and Michel van der Rest as Vice-Chair, have, over the past three years, played pivotal roles in ensuring continued support to the ESRF by its Members and Associates, and in widening the circle of countries that contribute to our activities. I personally wish to thank them for their engagement and support, and welcome B. Girard and M.A. García Aranda.

I wish to conclude this introduction by thanking everybody who has contributed to the progress made in 2013, and to the many successes. In particular, I wish to thank the members of the scientific, technical, administrative, and financial committees for their help and advice, and the Council delegates for their guidance and continued support. The ESRF users have performed wonderful scientific work and in parallel given important support and critical advice to the ESRF. All my colleagues at the ESRF have worked extremely hard to deliver simultaneously world-class operation of the facility while building the future of the ESRF through its upgrade programme.

Thanks to all of you and I hope you enjoy reading these 2013 Highlights!

Francesco Sette,
ESRF Director General