The operation of the ESRF in 2010 has been as excellent as in previous years, characterised by outstanding scientific productivity and by record-breaking performance of the accelerator complex.

  F. Sette  

The number of proposals, experimental sessions, user visits and publications in peer-reviewed journals was again very high, comparable to the record figures of 2009. Details are outlined in the chapter on Facts and Figures. The scientific highlights in the following chapters confirm the important trend of coupling increasingly smaller X-ray beams with X-ray techniques such as scattering, diffraction and spectroscopy. They also underscore an increasing use of coherence in many experiments and in different disciplines, both in the traditional fields of materials science, condensed matter physics, chemistry and life sciences, and in the emerging fields of palaeontology, environment and cultural heritage.

In parallel to the user operation, the Upgrade Programme is now in full swing with important progress in all areas:

  1. Outstanding results have been achieved in the Source Upgrade: 6 m straight sections were installed for several beamlines; operation at 300 mA was successfully demonstrated; and good progress was made in the refurbishment of the RF system, notably for the new solid state amplifiers. A special effort was devoted to the stability of the source which made it possible to reduce the vertical emittance to a world record value of less than 5 pm in User Service Mode. The increased brightness benefits notably the micro- and nano-beams. The High Pressure Beamline ID27, for example, now serves its users with a world record brightness of almost 1x1021 photons/s/mm2/mr2/0.1bw in the 200 mA operation mode.
  2. The evolution of the beamline portfolio has been progressing well, despite the new challenges due to the need to reduce the number of public beamlines. The eight Upgrade Beamlines (UPBLs) are being constructed as planned and the major beamline refurbishments linked to the UPBL construction should remain unaffected. UPBL10 (MASSIF) and UPBL11 (TEXAS) are already under construction, and UPBL4 (NINA), UPBL6 (Inelastic Scattering) and UPBL7 (Soft X-rays) have entered into the construction planning phase. Most other UPBLs have had their Technical Design Report (TDR) presented to and supported by the Science Advisory Committee (SAC), which in turn is kept constantly abreast on the evolution of the beamline portfolio.
  3. The instrumentation development programme recorded important achievements: these include delivery in user mode of nano-beams down to ~60 nm using both K-B and compound-refractive-lenses; precision mechanics for nano-optics; commissioning of a Pilatus-6M 2D pixel detector on a Structural Biology beamline; commissioning of the liquid phase epitaxial deposition apparatus to prepare unique scintillation materials for hard X-ray detection in imaging experiments; and development of unique, powerful software packages for instrument control and on-line data analysis.
  4. The Experimental Hall extension project (EX2) is ready for tendering with a reduced scope imposed by budget constraints. The new data centre in the Central Building to keep up with the increasing computing needs is nearing completion and will enter service in 2011.

2010 will be remembered as the year when important changes began, and new opportunities arose for the ESRF. The economic situation in Europe requires the ESRF to evolve: certain member countries, despite continued support to the ESRF, cannot finance our budget for some years to come at the levels originally foreseen. ESRF Management and Council have worked hand in hand on a scheme to alleviate these financial difficulties. On 30 November, Council unanimously adopted a resolution allowing two member countries to reduce their financial contributions for three years, and this without compromising the quality of the scientific programme. All twelve member countries and seven scientific associates have renewed their long-term commitment to the ESRF, and especially to the continuation of its intergovernmental convention.

The resolution leads to a 6% budget reduction during 2011-2013 which shall be absorbed without compromising the quality of service for the 4000 scientists who use the ESRF. However, a reduction of this size meant difficult decisions had to be taken in 2010, and more lie ahead in 2011: the number of beamlines, and the operation time of the accelerator complex, must be reduced and some deliverables of the Upgrade Programme revised. These reductions shall be implemented in a way to limit as much as possible the impact on the scientific community. This impact will, however, to a large extent address users from countries forced to reduce their financial contribution, and which in return accepted a limitation of their beamtime.

The years ahead will be challenging for synchrotron science in general. Spectacular efforts over the past ten years saw the construction of excellent new synchrotron sources in particular in Europe, which reinforced its long-standing leadership. Today, important investments are foreseen in the U.S. and in Japan. More importantly, a strong programme is developing in Russia – building on a long tradition in synchrotron science – and in emerging market economies such as Brazil, China and India where strong scientific communities already use synchrotrons all over the world.

In the face of reduced resources in Europe, maintaining the present frontline position will need careful coordination to emphasise the complementarity of the ESRF with the other synchrotron sources. This will address issues like cost containment, efficiency, excellence in user services, technical developments and governance. Without coordination across Europe, we cannot maintain our leadership nor will we succeed in opening our laboratories to innovation, industry and new communities.

I am convinced that the ESRF, working in concert with others, can maintain a world leading role. We will create new opportunities for more unique beamlines on free insertion device straight sections of the ESRF storage ring. I expect new partners to be interested in exploiting these new and unique possibilities. The Council Resolution invites Management to attract, over the next three years, new members and scientific associates and to investigate other possible ways of collaboration with third parties. In parallel, Council and Management will work on new schemes where the funding of ESRF’s needs is more closely linked with the use by scientists from the different members countries.

The first phase of the Upgrade Programme, despite the reduced building construction programme and a slightly lowered investment capacity for the other projects, maintains all innovative features enabling the ESRF to stay attractive to its users in the long term. These include eight unique Upgrade Beamlines for delivery by 2015. In parallel, Management has started reflecting on the second phase of the Upgrade Programme. A revised plan, along with options taking into account the new financial context will be presented to Council in spring 2011 with the aim to start discussions on new UPBLs with SAC and the User Communities in 2012, possibly beginning with the Users Meeting in February of that year.

In 2011, the Upgrade Programme will have a very limited impact on user operation, despite the start of construction work for EX2 in September 2011. Beamtime delivery should not be reduced by more than two weeks. In 2012, however, a long shutdown is planned with significant reduction of user operation from December 2011 to April 2012, and in August and September 2012. The overall reduction of beam delivery in 2012 will be about four months, with a return to normal user operation in 2013.

There have been some successful developments for new partnerships. In June 2010, the ESRF and the ILL launched the Partnership for Soft Condensed Matter (PSCM) which is now developing a programme to attract further partners from academia and industry. Partnerships and collaboration ideas are also developing in extreme conditions science, palaeontology, metallurgy, and technologies for synchrotron and neutron science. The two existing and future partnerships will greatly benefit from the new Science Building, located between the ESRF and the ILL with a direct connection to both facilities for the benefit of all users. This building, funded by French regional and local authorities, will be commissioned in 2012.

I would like to thank our Member and Associate Countries, and in particular their delegates to Council, AFC and SAC, for their continued support and trust. In particular, I wish to thank the Chairman and the Delegates of Council for having developed with Management a pragmatic solution to a difficult funding problem. Thanks to these efforts, the excellence of the ESRF will be maintained and new opportunities have been created. I am also very grateful to the members of the beamtime allocation panels and of the beamline review committees for their hard work assuring the scientific life of the facility. Special thanks go also to the European Commission which in 2008-2010 has provided crucial support through the ESRFUP contract for the preparation of the ESRF Upgrade. Today, through further opportunities given to the projects on the ESFRI roadmap, it continues supporting the ESRF in a very visible way. Special thanks go also to the French authorities, in particular the Ville de Grenoble, the Grenoble-Alpes Métropole, the Conseil Général de l’Isère and the Région Rhône-Alpes for granting the ESRF and the ILL funds for important infrastructure projects like the new Science Building and a new site entrance which enormously enhance our scientific visibility.

In this issue of the Highlights, a special thanks goes to all ESRF staff who have demonstrated a formidable motivation, hard work and perseverance in providing support to our users and in developing the Upgrade. Last but certainly not least, I wish to thank the thousands of excellent and dedicated users who make outstanding science possible, a few examples of which are outlined on the following pages. With their wonderful science carried out at the ESRF, they make all our efforts more than worthwhile.


Francesco Sette,
ESRF Director General.