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ESRF celebrates 30 years of science, 30 years of international collaboration


Today, 27 November 2018, the ESRF celebrates its 30th anniversary in the presence of the representatives of its 22 partner countries. This event looks back at ESRF’s scientific accomplishments but also on the role that the ESRF has played in fostering peaceful cross-border collaboration in Europe and beyond. "Congratulations on 30 years of success; here is to 30 more to come," said Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, in a video message.

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“ESRF is a shining example of what can be achieved when people of different nationalities and cultures come together to pursue a common goal, to push back the frontiers of science,” said ESRF Director General Francesco Sette. “In drawing up the ESRF Convention, back in 1988, the ESRF’s founding fathers established a unique model for scientific and technological excellence. Today, with 22 partner countries, and by bringing together scientists from all over the world, the ESRF continues to demonstrate how science unites nations and contributes to addressing complex global challenges facing our society.”

2018 holds a particular significance for the ESRF as the facility celebrates its 30th anniversary. In 1988, 11 countries joined forces to create the first third-generation synchrotron light source: a dream became a reality. Thirty years later, the ESRF has broken records for the brilliance and stability of its X-ray beams, for its scientific output (over 32 000 publications, i.e., around 2 000 publications per year during the last ten years, and four Nobel prize laureates), and for the strength of its community of users (about 10 000 scientific visits per year with users from 50 different countries).

Today the ESRF has 22 partner countries, from Europe and further afield, all sharing the same vision: to promote excellence in science, and to embrace international cooperation.

As explained by Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, in a video message: "There are three things that make me incredibly proud that Europe hosts the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility. First, you are a beacon of excellent science. Second, you are a powerhouse of international scientific collaboration. And third, you have created an interdisciplinary hub where scientists of all disciplines come together to exchange their knowledge. But above all, and as someone once said, you are making the invisible visible.”

Opening new possibilities for synchrotron science is at the heart of the ESRF’s mission. “The ESRF is the facility where we collected our best data. This is where we did our real science,” said Ada Yonath, winner of the Nobel prize in chemistry in 2009, during the anniversary ceremony.

“The ESRF was an essential ingredient of our work on the structure of the ribosome,” added Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, Nobel prizewinner in chemistry in 2009 and President of the Royal Society, in a video testimonial. “I think when you have a large international facility, you can do things on a scale that is not possible by just one country. The ESRF, because it has been international, has brought top scientists together from different countries, and this has led to a lot of pioneering ideas.”

2018 also marks a turning point for the future of the ESRF. On 10 December, 30 years after the signature of the ESRF Convention, the ESRF’s shining light will be put in stand-by mode. The ESRF will enter a 20-month shutdown, and will dismantle its flagship storage ring to make way for a revolutionary X-ray source, an Extremely Brilliant Source (EBS), open for users in 2020. At its core is a first-of-its-kind storage ring – the world’s first high-energy fourth-generation storage ring – with an increased X-ray brightness and coherent flux 100 times higher than before, in addition to new X-ray beamlines, instrumentation, data strategy. The ESRF upgrade will allow scientists to probe complex materials at the atomic level in greater detail, with higher quality, and much faster. It will bring X-ray science into research domains and applications that could not have been imagined a few years ago

Top image: The ESRF construction site in 1990.