European Synchrotron Radiation Facility

The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) is a joint research facility situated in Grenoble, France, and supported by 22 countries (13 member countries: France, Germany, Italy, UK, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and 9 associate countries: Austria, Portugal, Israel, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, India and South Africa).[1]

European Synchrotron
Radiation Facility
Installation européenne
de rayonnement synchrotron
ESRF site
FormationSeptember 30, 1994 (1994-09-30)
HeadquartersGrenoble, France
Official languages
English and French
LeaderFrancesco Sette

Some 8,000 scientists visit this particle accelerator each year, conducting upwards of 2,000 experiments and producing around 1,800 scientific publications.[2]


Inaugurated in September 1994, it has an annual budget of around 100 million euros,[3] employs over 630 people and is host to more than 7,000 visiting scientists each year.

General description

The ESRF physical plant consists of two main buildings: the experiment hall, containing the 844 metre circumference ring and forty tangential beamlines; and a block of laboratories, preparation suites, and offices connected to the ring by a pedestrian bridge. The linear accelerator electron gun and smaller booster ring used to bring the beam to an operating energy of 6 GeV are constructed within the main ring. Until recently bicycles were provided for use indoors in the ring's circumferential corridor. Unfortunately they have been removed after some minor accidents. But even before this it was not possible to cycle continuously all the way around, since some of the beamlines exit the hall.

Research at the ESRF focuses, in large part, on the use of X-ray radiation in fields as diverse as protein crystallography, earth science, paleontology, materials science, chemistry and physics. Facilities such as the ESRF offer a flux, energy range and resolution unachievable with conventional (laboratory) radiation sources.

Study results

In 2014, ancient books destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 are read for the first time in the ESRF. These 1840 fragments were reduced to the status of charred cylinders.[4][5]

In 2015, scientists from the University of Sheffield have used the ESRF's X-rays to study the blue and white feathers of the Jay and have found that birds use well-controlled changes to the nanostructure of their feathers to create the vivid colours of their plumage. This research opens new possibilities for creating non-fading, synthetic colours for paints and clothing.[6]

In July 2016, a team of South Africa researchers scans a complete fossilized skeleton of a small dinosaur discovered in 2005 in South Africa and older than 200 million years. The dentition of heterodontosauridae scanned revealed palate bones of less than a millimeter thick.[7][8]

On December 6, 2017, the journal Nature unveils the discovery at the European synchrotron of a new species of dinosaur with surprising characteristics and living about 72 million years ago. It is a biped, mix between a velociraptor, an ostrich and a swan with a crocodile muzzle and penguin wings. With a height of about 1.2 meters (4 ft) and with killer claws, he could hunt his prey on the ground or hunt by swimming in the water, which is a novelty for scientists in the study of dinosaurs.[9]


The ESRF site forms part of the "Polygone Scientifique", lying at the confluence of the rivers Drac and Isère about 1.5 km from the centre of Grenoble. It is served by Grenoble tramway system and local bus lines of Semitag (C6, 22 and 54). It is served by Grenoble–Isère Airport and Lyon–Saint-Exupéry Airport.

The ESRF shares its site with several other institutions including the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL), the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the LNCMI. The Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) has an institute just across the road.

See also


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