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New high-energy synchrotron now available to scientists

25 August 2020

A new high-energy synchrotron that generates beams 10 trillion times brighter than medical X-rays is available to industrial and academic scientists for the first time. The ESRF-Extremely Brilliant Source (ESRF-EBS) part-funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), will enable the 3D exploration of matter from metre to nanometre scales and help scientists to gain a better understanding of the complexity of living and condensed matter.

The ESRF in Grenoble, France is the world's most intense X-ray source and a centre of excellence for fundamental and innovation-driven research in condensed and living matter science. The new synchrotron, that will be used by UK research scientists alongside other users from around the world, replaces the ESRF’s historic storage ring that was dismantled at the end of last year.

The new machine was ready to be switched on just before the ESRF site was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March. Since April, researchers have already used the intense EBS beam to study SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, and the disease's impact on human organs. Today for the first time the ESRF-EBS is available to general users.

“This is a moment of pride for the whole of the synchrotron community,” said Francesco Sette, Director-General of the ESRF.

“With the opening of this brand-new generation of high-energy synchrotron, the ESRF continues its pioneering role to provide an unprecedented new tool for scientists to push the frontiers of science and address vital challenges facing our society today, such as health, and the environment. ”

The ring-shaped machine, 844 metres in circumference, generates X-ray beams 100 times brighter than that of its predecessor. This intense X-ray beam hails a new era for science to understand the complexity of materials and living matter at the nanometric level.

ESRF-EBS will contribute to tackling global challenges in key areas such as health, environment, energy and new industrial materials, and to unveiling hidden secrets of our natural and cultural heritage through the non-destructive investigation of precious artefacts and palaeontological treasures.

With performances increased by a factor 100, ESRF-EBS, the first fourth-generation high-energy synchrotron will give scientists unprecedented levels of insight and information, such as enabling them to perform a 3D scan of a full human organ or an entire body at micrometre resolution.

The new storage ring is part of the ongoing ESRF-EBS upgrade programme, that will include four new beamlines as well as improvements to instrumentation and data infrastructure. The ESRF owes its success to the international cooperation and collaboration of 22 partner nations, of which 13 are members ( including the UK) and nine are associates.

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The new machine will circulate a ribbon-like electron beam two micrometres high and 20 micrometres wide, one-thirtieth as wide as the previous beam. To reach these performances, the ESRF has implemented a brand-new lattice, the Hybrid Multi-Bend Achromat (HMBA) lattice invented by Pantaleo Raimondi, based on a new arrangement of innovative magnets (over 1 000 magnets – nearly twice as many as in the previous storage ring – squeezed into the same 844-m accelerator tunnel). This new magnetic configuration will guide and focus the electrons in order to produce an X-ray beam 100 times more brilliant and coherent than before.

Last updated: 24 August 2020

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