Come in, we're open!


For the first time since 2008, the ESRF opened its doors to the public for two days during the French annual science fair, the “Fête de la Science”. More than 1000 members of the public, staff and families, were welcomed to the European Photon and Neutron campus (EPN) where the guided tour provided an introduction to the European Synchrotron (ESRF) and two neighbouring institutes.

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With both the Institut Laue Langevin (ILL), one of the most intense neutron sources in the world, and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) included in the tour, visitors could better appreciate the  complementarity of the different institutes for the research carried out at the tip of Grenoble’s scientific peninsula.

The Open Days coincided with a shutdown of the accelerators at the ESRF and the neutron source at the ILL. Visitors were able to get a close-up view inside the ESRF’s iconic storage ring and enter a beamline experimental hutch, totally inaccessible during regular operations.




With the accelerators in shutdown, the concrete slabs of the ESRF storage ring roof were removed to give visitors a birds-eye view inside. Credit: ESRF/C. Jarnias.

One of the highlights of the ESRF visit was undoubtedly the freshly opened Visitor Centre, inaugurated only the day before.

Animated panels and videos as well as interactive models and exhibits explain the functioning of the facility and the different areas and applications of the research carried out.

Experts guided the visitors through the complexities of how electrons are circulated to produce synchrotron light to how scientists then use this light in many different ways to explore the atomic structure of materials.


"I'm not a scientist but everything was explained in a way I could understand."



Scientists at the ILL's D33 beamline give an explanation of diffraction patterns.



The ESRF Visitor Centre provides a panoramic viewing gallery of the Experimental Hall that will house four new beamlines.

At the ESRF, two beamlines were open for viewing: BM30 and ID 29, both dedicated to the crystallography of biological macromolecules.


"Thanks to the staff who shared their knowledge with us"


With the experimental hutches open, the public could witness the precision involved in the study of protein crystals, the diffraction patterns that result after exposure to the X-ray beam, and the translation of these obscure dotted pictures into 3D atomic representations of the molecules under scrutiny.


Visitors to an experimental end station at the ILL.

Thank you for sharing this fantastic experience with us!


Text by Kirstin Colvin

Top image: The experimental hutch of BM30 with active robot sample changer and plates analyser.