Materials research in its different aspects is the ultimate goal of 90% of all the investigations with synchrotron radiation at the ESRF. Contributions on this topic are therefore found in almost all of the chapters. In this one, we present examples on the structural aspect of matter which fit neither into the section on Applied or Industrial research nor anywhere else. They are representative of the great variety of activities which take place at the ESRF.

The highlights selected this year concern biopolymers, metals, and aqueous suspensions. The first one reports how the fibrous structure of wood has been investigated using fibre diffraction. The precision of this technique permitted a determination of both the location and the orientation of fibres in the cross-section of a cell. Then two highlights concern metals and alloys; one describes how imaging techniques combined with a specially built furnace have been used to study the microstructures within an alloy under conditions of a thermal gradient. The other shows how high energy X-rays permitted a study of grain growth within the bulk material during the annealing of aluminium.

The last two highlights are representative of the field of soft condensed matter and they concentrate on the dynamics of aqueous suspensions. In the first, charge-stabilised colloidal silica was studied using X-ray photon correlation spectroscopy; in the second, aqueous suspensions of vanadium pentoxide ribbons were subjected to shear conditions in a Couette cell and studied using small-angle X-ray scattering.