Next generation X-rays: EBS and European Synchrotron Radiation Facility

Image to demonstrate the next generation of X-rays

Pantaleo Raimondi, Extremely Brilliant Source (EBS) Project Leader and Director of Accelerator & Source Division, and the Directors of Research at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, Harald Reichert and Jean Susini, discuss the ESRF shutdown and progress towards the EBS.

IN December 2018, 30 years after the ESRF Convention was signed, the beam at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility stopped for the final time in the original storage ring. At that point, a 20-month shutdown began, which will see the storage ring that has served the international scientific community with bright and reliable X-rays for the last 30 years dismantled in order to make way for a new and revolutionary X-ray source, the Extremely Brilliant Source (EBS), the world’s first high-energy fourth-generation synchrotron light source, which will open to users in 2020.

EBS is a €150m project, funded by the 22 partner countries of the ESRF. With EBS, the European Synchotron Radiation Facility is building an ambitious new standard for synchrotron storage rings – the world’s first high-energy fourth-generation storage ring – with unique X-ray performances increased by a factor 100 compared to current storage ring and third generation standards.

Discussing the way in which X-ray science is now being utilised by diverse scientific communities, , Harald Reichert and Jean Susini, both Directors of Research at European Synchotron Radiation Facility, explained: “X-rays have developed from a tool for specialists, mostly physicists, to a Swiss Army knife for all kind of scientific disciplines. The user community today is much broader than originally foreseen and is still growing in quantity and diversity. We are helping a large range of ‘X-ray novices’ to make best use of this wonderful tool.”

According to Reichert and Jean Susini, there is still a large pool of potential applications in many fields where people are hesitant due to a perceived complexity in the instrumentation and techniques offered by European Synchotron Radiation Facility /EBS. They added: “Our main goal is to lower this barrier and broaden the use of X-rays into areas that we have not penetrated yet. Another challenge is the large quantity of raw data we produce today that may scare non-expert users who very often don’t have access to the appropriate IT infrastructure. We try to tackle this issue by developing what we call a ‘data analysis as a service’.”

The first high-energy fourth-generation synchrotron

“With EBS, our quest for higher brilliance and coherence continues. The expertise that we have at the European Synchotron Radiation Facility is unique and allows us to attempt a project of this scale. Today all the European Synchotron Radiation Facility teams are mobilised to make this vision a reality in 2020,” Pantaleo Raimondi, EBS Project Leader and Director of the Accelerator & Source Division, said at the time of the shutdown.

EBS represents an enormous challenge, not only in pushing science and technology to its known limits, but also on a human and logistical scale. Over the next 20 months, the European Synchotron Radiation Facility will put in stand-by mode its scientific user programme, dismantle the current 844m-circumference storage ring and install the new EBS lattice within the existing infrastructure. The new source will be achieved by replacing the existing storage ring, a double-bend achromat (DBA) magnet sequence, with an innovative and award-winning hybrid multi-bend achromat (HMBA) design, developed at the European Synchotron Radiation Facility.

Teams will have eight months to install 128 girders, supporting over 10,000 components precision-aligned to within half the width of a human hair, in the tunnel.

EBS relies on a number of key innovative technologies. This first-of-a-kind new storage ring combines an increase in the number of bending magnets with seven, as opposed to two, bending magnets per cell and optics that maximise the stable phase space volume available for the electron beam, reducing the horizontal emittance. The result is a tighter packing of electrons, increasing the brightness and degree of coherence of the X-rays by two orders of magnitude. This gives the EBS beams laser-like properties approaching those of X-ray free–electron lasers (XFELs) such as the European XFEL, and makes EBS the first high-energy fourth- generation synchrotron light source. EBS is also using permanent magnet technology for the 128 dipole magnets, achieving a significant reduction in electricity consumption. In the new EBS storage ring, 1,000 innovative magnets – nearly twice as many as in the previous storage ring – will be squeezed into the same space inside the accelerator tunnel.

When SciTech Europa asked Raimondi why the upgrade was necessary, what he thought were the biggest engineering and technical challenges he expects to encounter, and what, in the end, it will achieve, he said: “The upgrade is required simply as a result of the foreseen evolution of X-ray science. The major challenges of the upgrade are related to the logistic complexity of building a new machine that is compatible as much as possible with the existing infrastructure and by minimising as much as possible the necessary operation shutdown of the facility. This is a formidable endeavour, but when complete the advantages are enormous, in terms of the overall cost of the upgrade, the duration of the project, and the readiness of the facility with a full complement of best-in-the-world operating beamlines.”

To pioneer synchrotron science

The new EBS storage ring will be complemented by the construction of four brand-new flagship beamlines and the full refurbishment of existing beamlines; an ambitious instrumentation programme with a focus on high-performance detectors; and cutting-edge experimental control and data analysis tools, all designed to exploit the enhanced performance of the new source.

The new EBS beamlines will make it possible to probe complex materials at the atomic level in greater detail, with higher quality, and much faster. These new beamlines will help scientists to address major challenges facing our society, including the development of the next generation of drugs, biomaterials and sustainable materials, and to provide deep insights into the complex mechanisms governing living organisms. They will help elucidate our recent and ancient past, as manifested in historical artefacts and fossils. What is more, they will provide unique opportunities for applied and innovation-driven research.

Reichert and Susini told SE that the common denominator in the four projects/beamlines is that they aim to take full advantage of the unique properties of EBS, and in most cases improve by many orders of magnitude the most advanced X-ray techniques. They are expected to open new opportunities in the applied sciences relevant for many of the challenges our modern society faces, such as energy production, storage and efficient use, public health, the environment and its protection, to name just a few.

The EBS lattice

EBS will be a powerful new instrument for the international scientific community, opening the door to new experiments in X-ray science. By pushing the frontiers of accelerator technology, the EBS lattice has inspired other major light sources around the world. EBS reinforces what has always been, and will always be, the European Synchotron Radiation Facility’s mission: to pioneer synchrotron science.

SciTech Europa asked Raimondi about how the hybrid multi-bend achromat lattice will allow for an X-ray beam 100 times more brilliant and coherent than before, and what the biggest challenges are in achieving this. He said: “The X-ray characteristics are directly related to the electron beam that produce them. The new lattice is able to concentrate the electrons in beams 40 times smaller than before, thus the brightness increase. Imagine having 40 flashlights and being able to overlay them all together, ending up with a flashlight 40 times brighter and smaller.

“Moreover, X-rays are electromagnetic waves; waves can be as incoherent as the ripples generated by throwing 40 pebbles randomly in a lake, or they can have very ‘coherent’ circular wave-fronts if the 40 pebbles are dropped all in the same point.”

“In order to concentrate the electrons so much,” Raimondi added, “very strong magnetic fields and exotic magnets are necessary, with unprecedented mechanical precisions. Up-to-date accelerator technology and mechanical engineering are they key in order to meet those requirements.”

HPLF and cryo-EM

Two new user platforms complement the EBS’s infrastructure: a high-power laser facility (HPLF) and a cryo-electron microscope (cryo-EM). Discussing the benefits of these to the research community, Reichert and Jean Susini explained: “Combining these complementary tools with our most brilliant X-ray beams will allow our users to get insight into materials properties that are otherwise inaccessible. For example, reaching the conditions of pressure and temperature in the interior of planets and studying them with X-rays will help scientists to develop an understanding of the evolution of our own Solar System. Another example is the design of drugs acting on very large molecular machines in our cells that can be achieved by the combination of high-resolution structures derived from X-ray crystallography combined with imaging of these complexes in the high resolution cryo-EM.”

Looking to the future, Raimondi concluded: “The new machine has been already assembled, but now it has to be installed in place of the old one. Major milestones in order to complete this process will be the successful removal of the old machine and the roll-in of the new one.

“Restart of machine operation will be at the end of 2019. Completion of the machine and beamlines commissioning in August 2020 and restart of user-mode operations immediately thereafter.”

Pantaleo Raimondi
Project Leader
Extremely Brilliant Source (EBS)
Director of Accelerator &
Source Division
The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF)
Harald Reichert and Jean Susini
Directors of Research
The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF)
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