Dear Reader, 

2009 has been an important and successful year for the ESRF, filled with events confirming its outstanding scientific activities and preparing an even brighter future with the start of the Upgrade Programme. Technically, the ESRF has performed better than ever before, making possible the many scientific achievements of users and staff that are illustrated by the examples and facts and figures within this edition of the Highlights. The Upgrade Programme is reaching full speed and important progress has been made. We are very thankful to the ESRF staff, who rise to the double challenge to deliver excellent user support and frontline science and at the same time build the ESRF of tomorrow.

The number of proposals, experimental sessions, user visits and publications in peer-reviewed journals were once more higher than in any previous year. Details on user operations are outlined in the chapter on Facts and Figures. The six beamlines for Macromolecular Crystallography were in the limelight on 7 October 2009 when two long-term users of the ESRF won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Ada Yonath of the Weizmann Institute in Israel and Venki Ramakrishnan of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, two long-term users of the ESRF, received this award together with Thomas Steitz, from Yale University in Connecticut, for their study of the structure and function of the ribosome. Ada and Venki have been regular visitors to the ESRF since the early days and during the last year their teams came once a month on average, bringing around 500 samples each time for analysis. The other scientific areas have been very successful too, both the traditional disciplines such as materials science and soft matter systems, and the new fields of application of synchrotron radiation such as palaeontology and environmental sciences.

The accelerator and X-ray source complex delivered more than 99% of scheduled beam time to users for the first time ever. According to our data, this record figure has never been equalled at any synchrotron radiation facility in the world. 2009 has also been the best year in terms of mean time between failures and average duration of a failure. This achievement is the result of many years of experience in operating and maintaining the accelerator complex, which has been obtained despite many challenges in vacuum and radio frequency (RF) technologies. A new beam position monitoring system has been installed and commissioned.  It has a much higher sensitivity and will result in an improved beam stability once the renovation of the orbit correction system has been completed. Similarly, a new electron gun for the LINAC injector has improved the bunch timing purity from the injector. Within the Upgrade Programme, important contracts have been established for the procurement of a new high power RF amplifier system based on solid-state amplifiers, and for three prototypes of a new RF cavity featuring strong high-order-mode damping.

The construction of a new data centre has started in the Central Building. It will enable the ESRF to contend with the increasing computing needs in synchrotron science. With imaging detectors becoming more readily available on all beamlines, and with their spatial and time-frame resolution increasing steadily, real-time data processing and reduction, as well as data storage, require extraordinary resources for computation power and storage memory. The new data centre will become operational in 2011.

The progress of the Upgrade Programme is outlined in a dedicated chapter. A key event in 2009 was the signature of the contract for the Experimental Hall extension, which marked the end of a long and difficult process to identify strict criteria for the floor stability, and the need for new laboratory and office space within the limits dictated by our budgetary means. In parallel, a thorough process for selecting the eight Upgrade Beamlines and the beamlines to be moved and refurbished took place with the help and involvement of the ESRF’s Science Advisory Committee (SAC). As a result, our new buildings, to be completed by 2013, can be considered as tailor-made for our 2015 beamline portfolio.

The grant by French national and regional authorities (Contrat de Projets Etat-Région) to fund new infrastructures on the joint ILL/ESRF site was increased to 18 million Euros. A tender for three new buildings: site entrance, a restaurant extension and a 4000 m2 Science Building for partnerships with the ILL and other leading institutes was launched. Completion of these buildings is foreseen in early 2013.

Scientific opportunities at the ESRF are continuing to grow thanks to a new agreement for the operation of BM14, a macromolecular crystallography beamline which will be operated by a consortium of scientists from the EMBL and the Indian National Institute of Immunology (NII).  This new project will provide 40% of its time to the ESRF users, starting in 2010. The ESRF Council also agreed to the relocation of the Institut de Biologie Structurale to a new building on the joint site. This decision will strengthen even further the very successful structural biology programme presently carried out by the EMBL, ESRF, ILL and the PSB partners.

We would like to thank our Member and Scientific Associate countries, and in particular their delegates to the Council, Administrative and Finance Committee (AFC) and SAC for their continued support and trust, despite the difficult budgetary environment and competition for support between large scale research infrastructures. A special thanks goes also to the European Commission which, by awarding the ESRFUP grant, has enabled the period 2008-2011 to proceed with crucial steps to prepare the ESRF Upgrade and in particular the positive decision of the ESRF Member Countries. We would also like to extend our special thanks to the French authorities, and in particular, the Ville de Grenoble, the Grenoble community – Alpes – Métropole (METRO), the Conseil Général de l’Isère and the Région Rhone-Alpes, for their CPER contract grant that will greatly enhance the scientific visibility of the ESRF/ILL joint-site. We are also very grateful to the members of the Beamtime Allocation Panels and the Beamline Review Committees for their hard work to ensure the scientific life of the facility. Last but certainly not least, we wish to thank the thousands of users and the ESRF staff for the outstanding science, outlined by a few examples in the pages that follow.


P. Elleaume, R. Dimper, S. Pérez, H. Reichert, A.E. Röhr, J. Susini, P. Thiry and F. Sette