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Sustainable research at micro and nano X-ray beamlines

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - STREAMLINE (Sustainable research at micro and nano X-ray beamlines)

Reporting period: 2019-11-15 to 2021-05-14

STREAMLINE aims to ensure the long-term sustainability of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in the context of its recent upgrade that makes it the first in a new generation of synchrotrons. The ESRF is a user-based research infrastructure, serving 7,000 researchers annually. In 2020, the ESRF’s Extremely Brilliant Source (ESRF-EBS), which is a 2018 ESFRI Roadmap Landmark, began user operation delivering a revolutionary new fourth-generation synchrotron, to which will be added four new state-of-the-art X-ray beamlines. Thanks to an initial x100 beam brilliance enhancement and x50 in coherence, with particularly strong impact for micro- and nano-beams, ESRF-EBS will enable novel experimental capabilities across basic, applied and industrial science on all of ESRF’s 44 X-ray beamlines, addressing major societal challenges.
The full exploitation of the ESRF-EBS poses new long-term sustainability challenges arising from the exploitation of its unprecedented X-ray beams. There will be more users, more samples and more data through faster and wholly new experiments, and new services could be created. STREAMLINE will therefore make key updates to the facility’s scientific strategy, renew its business plan and revisit access modes, with a new access service package, to capitalise rapidly on the new scientific opportunities and increased experimental capacities at the beamlines. Benefits will be felt by both academia and industry. Support and training of user communities, existing, emerging and new, to encourage use of the new opportunities is an essential part of STREAMLINE. This will allow the ESRF to become rapidly the first operational demonstrator of a fourth-generation synchrotron. The results of STREAMLINE will be shared with European light sources, many of which plan EBS-type upgrades following the ESRF.
STREAMLINE will increase the sustainability of the ESRF itself and aid the European light source community in their rapid exploitation of EBS-type upgrades.
• The highlight of the STREAMLINE project during this period was that STREAMLINE staff of WP3 helped to increase the ESRF’s resilience to the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic by focussing their effort on tasks linked to mail-in and remote access. Thanks to their effort, the ESRF-EBS was able to open to users on 25 August 2020 in fully remote access mode, which was the only feasible way of operating in line with the restrictions imposed to contain the pandemic.
• The start of user operation of the ESRF has immediately produced new scientific opportunities, which attract new scientific communities to the ESRF and the use of X-rays for their research. New access modes have been defined for that and are being implemented in three pilot projects. The governance and the definition of administrative procedures for implementation are well advanced. Discussion with the governing bodies of the ESRF for final acceptance are advancing well.
• Significant progress has been made towards facilitating remote access to experiments with mail-in of samples. Definition of specification and programming effort has contributed towards a new user portal, in particular a new proposal form with new sample sheets, and a laboratory information management system (LIMS) for the definition of experimental protocol and sample tracking. Other work included the integration of an external booking system with the User Portal facilitating the organisation of user travel.
• Definition of three new access models has created new ways for consortia of researchers to access the facility. Pilot projects with users are underway to test the new access models by using existing workflows and some manual actions. Meanwhile, new workflows are being defined for the User Portal and revision is expected while learning from the pilot projects.
• Bibliometric reporting has advanced through adaptation of the publications matching software PUMA for ESRF use and development of new features such as a publication metadata importer, collection reports linking experiment proposals with publications for a country specific impact factor, and a dashboard.
• The techniques of powder diffraction, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, and residual strain measurement were selected for the development of high-throughput services. These projects are in various stages of completion, with the most advanced being powder-diffraction where a sample holder has been defined, and a prototype robotic sample changes has been tested at a beamline. All three services are being elaborated in collaboration with potential users.
• New workflows facilitating automation have been defined for data collection and data analysis for a number of techniques including MX, tomography, dark-field X-ray microscopy, CryoEM. Other software modules have been created to help unify ESRF workflows, making code reutilisable, namely pypushflow, a workflow engine, and esrftaskgraph, which provides a graphical representation of pypushflow workflows.
• Two workshops were organised for emerging communities around the themes of a) cultural and natural heritage and b) static and dynamic extreme conditions involving lasers or other shock-generating devices in combination with X-ray probes. One sandpit, a workshop to develop future user communities, took place and it focussed on the technique of dark-field X-ray microscopy (DFXM). Communication with industrial users was also developed, in particular through the organisation of an “intermediaries meeting”.
• Digital communication has replaced most in-person activities during this period and STREAMLINE staff gave twelve webinars, and five presentations at conferences or workshops and produced 10 videos. Many of the webinars were recorded and are available in addition to the videos via the ESRF YouTube channel.
• Cross-cutting reviews of research carried out at the ESRF are being used to identify new scientific opportunities to guide future research priorities in line with key societal challenges.
• Increased capacity is being made possible through new access methods, mail-in and sample tracking, remote access, automation, to the benefit of both academic and industrial users. This increase in desperately needed as the ESRF is more than 50% oversubscribed. Through STREAMLINE, the ESRF-EBS will be able to respond to more of the beamtime requests, permitting European scientists to achieve more in their research.
• The new capabilities of the ESRF-EBS beamlines will generate new scientific possibilities. Outreach and training to make users aware of new beamlines and techniques will stimulate new science, encouraging individuals and even communities to test and become experts in the new capabilities of the beamline. This will provide a long-term boost to European research.
• Serving industry more efficiently with high-throughput services tailored to their needs will provide an economic benefit and a boost to European industry. Outreach through STREAMLINE will also aim to make industry more aware of the possibilities that the ESRF-EBS can offer to aid industrial innovation.
• The ESRF-EBS is Europe’s first fourth-generation high-energy synchrotron source. STREAMLINE will share its developments with other European lightsources, many of which will also be upgrading their storage rings in the near future.