European Synchrotron Radiation Facility

The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) based in Grenoble, France, operates the most powerful high energy synchrotron light source in Europe.

The facility produces very intense X-rays capable of penetrating material and revealing the inner structure of matter down to the level of atoms and molecules. The X-rays are provided to 41 beamlines, with each beamline supporting one or two scientific end-stations for use by the international scientific community. The facility operates around the clock, providing in excess of 12,000 experimental shifts to users per year. In late 2014 the ESRF celebrated 20 years of user operation. During this time the facility has:

  • Considered 33,776 scientific proposals

  • Supported 92,668 user visits
  • Delivered 246,280 shifts for experiments
  • Solved 10,600 biological structures
  • Produced 24,850 publications in peer reviewed journals
  • Been linked to 3 Nobel Prizes for Chemistry

The ESRF is funded and managed by 13 Member countries (France; Germany; Italy; UK; Russia; Spain; Switzerland; Belgium; the Netherlands; Denmark; Finland; Norway and Sweden) with additional smaller financial contributions being made by another eight Associate countries (Portugal; Israel; Austria; Poland; Czech Republic; Hungary; Slovakia and South Africa), The newest member country is Russia, who joined in June 2014. The UK contributes 10.5% of the annual Members contributions, with UK scientists receiving ~10% of the available beamtime.

The ESRF brings together many areas in science including physics, chemistry and materials science as well as biology, medicine, geophysics and archaeology. There are many industrial applications, for example in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, petrochemicals and micro- electronics, as well as growing interest from the cultural sector e.g. art galleries and museums. ESRF news is published three times a year and provides information on the latest scientific and technical updates at the facility. The general brochure of the ESRF, a Light for Science, gives an overview of the facility and presents some of the applications of synchrotron light.

Since 2009 the ESRF has been undergoing an Upgrade Programme to keep it at the forefront of synchrotron radiation science for the foreseeable future. The first phase completed in 2015 and delivered eight Upgrade Beamlines with capabilities unique in the world, along with supporting buildings and infrastructure. Details of the beamline portfolio can be found here: Beamline Portfolio. The second Phase of the Upgrade Programme I commenced in 2015 and is due to complete in 2022. The main activity of Phase two is to upgrade the accelerator lattice. The Orange Book, the technical design study for Phase two was published in January 2015.

An introductory video to the ESRF
(Credit: ESRF)


Jennifer Scratcher


See also

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000