One of the pillars of the success of the ESRF is the continual development of new methods and instrumentation. These developments are often driven by the interaction between new technological possibilities and the evolving scientific needs. Consequently, the ESRF user community is involved in developing new methods and instrumentation. Three areas deserve a special mention: optics, sample environment and detectors.

The developments in optics, of which various examples are given in this year's highlights, are particularly exciting and are a good example of the interaction between the desire to have ever smaller focal spot sizes, and the development of better optical elements. The impact of new multilayers, has been so important that the ESRF management has approved the construction of a new multilayer fabrication facility.

Another area of increasing importance is the sample environment, or non-ambient conditions. More and more experiments require heating, cooling, high pressures, magnetic fields, laser illumination or a combination of these parameters. In order to answer to these increasing demands, a new Sample Environment Support Service (SESS) has been created. The SESS will provide a pool of equipment, including cryostats, furnaces and high-pressure cells, provide expert support for the experiments, and work on various projects in collaboration with the scientists.

The third area of increasing activity is X-ray detectors. The increasing automation of experiments calls for improved diagnostics tools that record the intensity, position and shape of the X-ray beam. At the same time, the so-called pixel detectors, which are based on micro-electronic chips coupled to semiconductor diode chips, are starting to be used in the experiments. Whereas most other developments can be performed in- house, the field of X-ray detectors requires international collaborations. The ESRF is increasingly active in European collaborations, and applying for funding within the Sixth Framework Program of the European Commission.

One of the most exciting developments of the past year is the extension of photoelectron spectroscopy to higher energies. The availability of high-energy photons in the 14 keV range with 10-50 meV energy resolution opens up a completely new and as yet unexplored territory. The first results are given here.

Improvements of the X-ray source, with correspondingly increased heat load, also require redesign of the optics in order to preserve the beam quality. Two examples are given in this year's highlights. The first one is a study of a cryogenically-cooled Si monochromator under extreme heat load. The second example is the development of an asymmetrically-cut backscattering monochromator for inelastic scattering. As stated before, multilayers have rapidly evolved over the last years, and are extending experimental capabilities on many beamlines. An example of a double multilayer monochromator and a multilayer for broad-band focusing is given. Another interesting contribution describes X-ray magnetic scattering at 1 Kelvin, for which a special cryostat has been developed.

X-ray microscopy is a rapidly-developing field, thanks, in part, to the developments in X-ray optics. Here the development of diffractive optical elements for so called differential interference contrast X-ray microscopy is presented.

H. Graafsma