European Synchtrotron Radiation Facility


The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble (France) is Europe's strongest X-ray light source. It was inaugurated in 1994, has about 600 staff members and is financed by 19 countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Highly qualified scientific and technical experts welcome thousands of scientists coming from more than 1000 research organisations every year to conduct experiments at the European Light Source.

The storage ring of the European Light Source (ESRF) in Grenoble

The storage ring of the European Light Source (ESRF) in Grenoble

Since their discovery about a century ago, X-rays have been used in an everincreasing number of experimental research areas and industrial applications ranging from medical imaging in hospitals to solving the structure of the famous double helix 50 years ago. Indeed, the high penetration power and the short wavelength of X-rays, about the distance between atoms, make X-ray techniques invaluable tools for revealing the hidden structure of matter down to the atomic scale. Synchrotron radiation is a special kind of X-ray light with many orders of magnitude higher brightness than that of conventional X-ray tubes.

Ultra-high vacuum apparatus installed on ESRF beamline ID08 for the study of magnetism and electronic structures

Very intense, micrometer sized and extremely parallel beams are emitted by electrons circulating in the storage ring with a speed close to that of light. Exiting through beamports in the shield wall around the storage tunnel these laser-like beams enter 40 highly specialised 'beamlines' situated in the experimental hall of 1 km circumference. They are further conditioned by ultra-precise X-ray optics such as mirrors with atomically flat surfaces and monochromator crystals made of silicon. The X-ray beams can be focused to spots on the nanometer scale, thousands of times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. Special detectors, many two-dimensional, permit fast data recording. Each beamline uses highly specialised methods such as diffraction, fluorescence spectroscopy and imaging. Alone or in combination, these techniques allow the researchers to gain valuable insight into not only the static structure of matter, but also the dynamic behaviour of atoms and molecules on a timescale down to the picosecond level.

Research at the ESRF covers a wide range of scientific fields including physics, chemistry, biology, environmental and life sciences, medicine and materials such as semiconductors, metal alloys and polymers. Researchers from industry are also very interested in the experimental opportunities offered by the ESRF to study pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, biomaterials and semiconductor components.