Experimental apparatus under high vacuum at ESRF beamline ID08 for the study of magnetism and electronic structures, January 2005 (Credit: ESRF/P. Ginter).Imagine a source that produces X-rays 10 trillion times brighter than the X-rays used in hospitals or laboratories. These X-rays, endowed with exceptional properties, are produced at the ESRF - the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility. Using these X-rays, the ESRF functions like a “super-microscope”, which "films" the position and motion of atoms in condensed and living matter, and reveals the structure of matter in all its complexity.

  • Measuring hard-to-detect quantities or properties, e.g. when a structure is very small, a sample is tiny or very dilute, or an effect is faint
  • Observing physically hidden features, e.g. the buried portion of a fossil or the structure of a surface under a coating
  • Stimulating atomic and molecular processes that require a lot of energy, e.g. identifying the chemical state of heavy elements such as chromium or uranium
  • Observing processes that happen very fast, e.g. structural changes in biological proteins.

This is not by any means a comprehensive list. A look at our publication database and science programme documents will give an idea of the disciplines and techniques represented among ESRF users.


Research areas

Examining a protein structure after data collection at the structural biology beamline ID23-1, March 2009 (Credit: ESRF/Molyneux Associates).

The ESRF X-ray science programme aims to tackle global challenges with  brand-new generation of high-energy synchrotron :

  • Health, Health Innovation, and overcoming cancer and neuro-degenerative diseases 
  • Material for tomorrow and innovative and sustainable industry
  • Clean Energy transition, sustainable energy storage and clean technologies
  • Planetary (terrestrial and extra-terrestrial) research
  • Environmental and climatic challenges, water supplies and earth atmosphere 
  • Bio-based economy and food security 
  • Humanity and world cultural heritage


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