The new group “Complex Systems and Biomedical Sciences” (CBS) was formed in July 2015 in order to foster synergy and collaboration in soft matter, surface and biomedical science in preparation of the EBS project. The group has five beamlines: ID02 (WAXS/SAXS/USAXS), ID03 (surface diffraction), ID09 (structural dynamics), ID10 (coherent diffraction imaging, correlation spectroscopy, soft surfaces and interfaces structure) and ID17 (medical beamline). The joint ILL/ESRF laboratories in the Partnership for Soft Condensed Matter (PSCM) are also included in the group. The main news from the beamlines are described below.

The upgrade of the time-resolved ultra-small-angle scattering beamline, ID02, the UPBL9a project, was completed at the end of 2014 and the beamline performance has reached most of the design specifications during its first year. The combined USAXS/SAXS/WAXS setup using the 34 m detector tube and multiple detectors can probe structural scales over 0.15 – 6000 nm with time resolution down to a millisecond with appropriate samples. ID02 can also exploit the coherence of the beam at extremely low angles to probe dynamics by X-ray photon correlation spectroscopy (XPCS). The high spatial resolution together with access to ultra low angles has initiated a new approach for the structural dynamic studies of cardiac muscle activation, especially by resolving the interference fine structure during muscle contraction. The availability of a wide q range is also very useful for industrial clients and the demand for proprietary beam time has increased significantly during the year.

ID03 was reviewed in November 2015 and the committee congratulated the beamline for excellent user support and in-house research. In addition to classical surface crystallography under ultra high vacuum, the trend in recent years has been to study catalysis and electrochemistry under real conditions in suitably designed reaction chambers. The efficiency of the data collection on ID03 was significantly improved by the use of a large CCD detector with software for quick reciprocal-space mapping and data analysis. This new software, named Binoculars, was developed in a very fruitful collaboration with Leiden University. A fast atomic force microscope (AFM) for measuring the morphology and mechanical properties of the sample in situ during X-ray data collection was also tested successfully in 2015. Finally the coherence of the beam was exploited in a few experiments which eventually might allow the catalytic activity of nanoparticles to be imaged with the future EBS lattice.

After 18 years at the ESRF Roberto Felici has moved to SPIN-CNR in Rome. Roberto took the position of scientist in charge of beamline ID03 in 2005. During the last 10 years he has led the technical developments of ID03, pushing the research activity of the beamline to the cutting edge of surface science. We wish Roberto success in his new position.

The beamline for structural dynamics, ID09, became dedicated to time resolved (TR) studies in November 2015 when the high-pressure branch of ID09A moved to ID15. With the increase in beamtime, more advanced and time consuming experiments can now be conducted. For example, a new transient optical/optical absorption spectrometer allows the users to test the laser excitation parameters, i.e. the optimal wavelength and pulse energy prior to the X-ray experiment. In addition, a new X-ray emission Johann spectrometer (XES) is now available for measuring atom specific changes in valence and spin of transition metals during chemical reactions. The local information from XES is complementary to WAXS which probes the change in the average electron density during a chemical reaction.

Beamline ID10 has setups for soft matter surfaces studies, CDI and XPCS. Thanks to a four-fold increase in the coherent flux and the high efficiency of the Maxipix detector, the reconstruction of frozen-hydrated cells, in three dimensions and with sub 100 nm resolution, is now feasible which is very important for biomedical research. For the study of liquid interfaces, the trend is to study self-assembled two-dimensional superlattices from nanocrystals, nanoparticles and macromolecules with the aim of tailoring electro-optical properties via controlled growth and structure. For more details the reader is referred to H. Mendez et al., Nature Communications 6, 8560 (2015). A new diffractometer for studies on liquid surfaces and interfaces with a double crystal deflector will be ready for user operation from the beginning of 2016. The deflector will speed up the data collection, decrease the liquid surface agitation and increase the q range for reflectivity measurements on liquids.

Microbeam radiation therapy (MRT) and phase contrast biomedical imaging continue to be the most requested techniques at ID17. Several MRT user programmes aim to study the normal tissue sparing and tumouricidal properties of high doses of X-rays delivered by microbeams and to compare these properties with conventional homogeneous irradiation. Other MRT programmes progress in the study of the efficiency of microbeams to alleviate seizures in epilepsy models. The ID17 imaging capabilities were also expanded in 2015 with the installation of a high-speed PCO.Edge5.5 camera. This detector will be used in combination with several optics available to provide a range of resolutions and fields of view. In 2015, a new 1X-2X magnification optics developed in house has extended ID17’s capabilities towards high resolution (pixel size down to 3.5 micrometres). This was developed in response to user requests in particular in neuroimaging. These studies are made possible by the presence on site of the Biomedical Facility, a technical biology platform supporting biomedical and life sciences research projects related to experiments carried out at ESRF beamlines, especially the Biomedical Beamline. The suite of laboratories provides ad hoc infrasctructures and expertise for the preparation of preclinical research programmes.

The PSCM made great progress in 2015 with the refurbishment and upgrade of a rheology platform, a multimodal optical microscope and a Brewster-angle microscope coupled to a Langmuir trough. With the support of the PSCM Steering Committee, ILL-owned equipment is progressively made available to the ESRF. This includes an interface tensiometer, a zeta potential analyser and a dynamic light scattering apparatus. The AFM platform from the former Scientific Infrastructure Group will be transferred to the PSCM in 2016. Additional capacities in terms of sample environment developments will be directed in particular towards the exploitation of microfluidic technologies to enhance synchrotron and neutron studies of soft and biological matter. The scientific programme includes the synthesis and self-assembly of nanomaterials in bulk and at interfaces, and innovative studies of soft biomaterials.

Finally, the preparation for the 4th International Soft Matter Conference (ISMC2016) is progressing well and further details can be found at URL:

M. Wulff