Highlights are “snap shots” in time, they present the latest achievements, which are often the culmination of many years of work. This is not only true of the scientific programmes that lead to an experiment at the ESRF but also for the beamline facilities which have resulted from investment (human and financial) over the ~15 years that the ESRF has been operating. In that time, new instruments and support facilities have been built that allow today’s state-of-the art experiments to be performed. So even if an experiment was conceived and the results published only recently, it is building on the work done and experience gained over the years. We are now at a point in time where the ESRF will start an Upgrade Programme. The aim is to allow experiments to be performed that cannot be done today. Although the gradual improvement of existing facilities is important and will allow new science in the future, the Upgrade Programme will take us a step further and enable the development of facilities that cannot be realised in this incremental manner. These developments will set the foundations for the scientific results of the next decade or more.

In the articles that follow there is a strong emphasis on magnetic materials, whether they are studies of dilute magnetic semiconductors, multiferroics or magnetostrictive materials. In addition, since absorption spectroscopy is a very powerful technique that can be applied to many problems, there are also highlights resulting from a variety of other studies. Examples include experiments on neptunium containing materials, which are interesting for environmental reasons; studies of the geologically important iron oxide, siderite, and research on alkali-doped fullerenes with the aim of producing new high-dimensional polymers. Also, the importance of industrial activities on the beamlines should not be forgotten. This is particularly evident at ID24 where Toyota has been an industrial user for several years and is well illustrated by the highlight article on vehicle exhaust catalysts (see Figure 99).

Fig. 99: An on-line approach to increasing catalyst lifetimes. X-ray studies by means of a special in situ cell were used to investigate auto-exhaust catalysts under realistic conditions at beamline ID24 (Image courtesy of TOYOTA Motor Corporation).

In the future we can expect studies of magnetism and of the electronic properties of materials to remain an exciting area of research. The Upgrade Programme will take these activities to new horizons. There will be more emphasis on “dynamical properties”, “extreme conditions” and “science at the nanoscale” as these are some of the themes of the Upgrade Programme. There will undoubtedly be other important developments outside the Upgrade Programme. For instance, the possibility of having experimental facilities with very high static magnetic fields (> 30T) is being actively pursued. New and improved facilities for users will give us an even stronger basis for the highlights of the future.

N.B. Brookes