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Sustainable research at micro and nano X-ray beamlines

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - STREAMLINE (Sustainable research at micro and nano X-ray beamlines)

Reporting period: 2021-05-15 to 2022-11-14

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.
• STREAMLINE staff helped to increase the ESRF’s resilience to the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic by focusing 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.
• 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.
• STREAMLINE’s cross-cutting reviews and beamline operation review have provided positive feedback from beamline staff about the ESRF-EBS and helped identify new communities of users.
• Three workshops were organised for emerging communities around the themes of a) cultural and natural heritage, b) static and dynamic extreme conditions involving lasers or other shock-generating devices in combination with X-ray probes, c) Molecular crowding. Two sandpits, i.e. workshops to develop future user communities, took place with the themes of: a) dark-field X-ray microscopy (DFXM) and b) quantum materials. Communication with industrial users was also developed, in particular through the organisation of an “intermediaries meeting”.
• New access modes have been defined for community access. Pilot projects with communities of users tested the new access modes. The community proposals access mode was launched on 4 October 2022 with the opening of a first call for proposals (https://www.esrf.fr/CommunityAccess).
• High-throughput services for powder diffraction (pXRD) and X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF) have been developed. They have been launched for use by the collaborators who participated in their development. The services will eventually be offered to all users, both from industry and academia.
• The PUMA (Publication and User experiment Metadata Analyser) V3 project, developed together with ILL (WP3, Task 3.5.2) was launched for internal use at the ESRF during this reporting period. PUMA is extensively used by the directorate and the user office to analyse publication from use of the facility. It has been used by scientists for the preparation of beamline reviews and the cross-cutting science reviews in the frame of STREAMLINE.
• Development of first version of a Python backend for a laboratory information management system (LIMS) ISPyB for structural biology; development of user interface for displaying acquisition and results for serial crystallography (SSX); porting of web applications for cryo-EM and MX to a new framework; improvements to user interface for mail-in for MX
• A common framework for workflows at the ESRF (ewoks) was developed and 10 different workflows for doing online data analysis have been deployed to over 20 beamlines.
• Generic tools for AI/ML applications have been developed; A pilot study applied AI/ML algorithms to fluorescence mapping and for general techniques producing 1D data.
• Visibility of the ESRF to the scientific community was enhanced through publication of over 50 video items on YouTube, participation of staff at over 50 events such as conferences, workshops and trade fairs, with over 100 representations.
• 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 capacity is 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.
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