With the birth of the Partnership for Soft Condensed Matter (PSCM), the past year marked an important milestone in the Soft Matter activities on site. The PSCM is expected to foster a much broader collaboration among the User communities of both ESRF and ILL and beamlines/instruments involved in Soft Matter Research. The official memorandum of understanding between ESRF and ILL was signed on the 27th of November followed by a workshop on “Scattering and Complementary Techniques” that was primarily oriented to attract Collaborative Partners and set the scientific agenda.

The PSCM will be established in a step-by-step process, initially as a support facility for the better exploitation of synchrotron and neutron scattering instruments in Soft Matter Research. The support infrastructure will be housed in the upcoming Science Building funded by the Contrat de Projets Etats-Région. The PSCM, in the medium term, will provide a platform for promoting the complementary aspects of neutron and synchrotron techniques, and aims to collectively enhance the visibility of the Partners in the Soft Matter field.  The long-term mission of the PSCM is to streamline neutron and synchrotron based Soft Matter Research to address 21st century challenges in nanomaterials, biotechnology, environmental and energy sciences.

The past year has also been a year of changes with respect to the organisation of beamlines and personnel. The former Soft Condensed Matter group has been reformed with a new name “Structure of Soft Matter” with the addition of the Time-Resolved Pump-Probe beamline ID09B.  This change has added a new dimension to the group, especially as pump-probe methods could make much deeper inroads into the activities of the group. Secondly, the upgrade proposals from the group was generally well received, with the SAC endorsing the UPBL 9 (a) and (b) projects which are the evolution of beamline ID02 for time-resolved ultra small-angle scattering and beamline ID09B for time-resolved pump-probe methods, respectively. Refurbishment of the ID10A and B beamlines is also in the pipeline while the ID13 nano-endstation is nearing completion.

As in the previous years, this section provides a selection of highlights which represents only a sub-set of many interesting scientific results and technical developments published over the year.  Once again the overlap with other disciplines such as the hard condensed matter and biological sciences is clearly evident. Self-assembly is at the origin of many fascinating features of  soft matter. The first article by Lund et al. reveals the pathway of a prototypical self-assembly process of block copolymer micelles and models it in terms of a nucleation and growth mechanism. The second article by Shukla et al. demonstrates  how the improvement of SAXS detection capabilities could be exploited to address longstanding issues such as the nanostructure of highly complex and polydisperse casein micelles, and shed light on the location of calcium phosphate within the complex.  The third article by Andersson et al. illustrates the ability of the time-resolved pump probe scattering technique to elucidate the structural dynamics in light-driven protein proton pumps such as bacteriorhodopsin and reveal their shared dynamical features.

The next two articles present the most recent advances in coherent imaging and scattering. Lima et al. demonstrate the possibility for biological imaging with about 30-50 nm spatial resolution in a hydrated frozen bacterial cell without introducing structural artefacts. Wochner et al. depict the power of cross-correlation analysis of two-dimensional speckle patterns to reveal hidden local symmetries in an otherwise disordered colloidal glassy state. This example also shows the overlap with the hard condensed matter field which is further reiterated in the next two articles dealing with surface and interface studies. In the first article by Vorobiev et al., the enigma of ferrofluid surface layering at the air-water interface is addressed. The second article by de Oteyza et al. illustrates the increasing interest in the investigation of buried interfaces, which in this case led to a better understanding of how to tune the morphology of organic p-n heterostructures. Finally, Popov et al. demonstrate the advances in microbeam diffraction by a single microcrystal diffraction study of a biopolymer, A-amylose, that revealed the location of water molecules and the distortion of intertwined parallel double helices.

T. Narayanan