25 years of X-ray Scattering at XMaS
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the operation of the UK’s XMaS (X-ray Materials Science) user facility at the European Synchrotron Research Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble. It has been directed for all that time from University of Warwick and Liverpool Physics Departments and has provided hundreds of UK scientists (and many from further afield) with the opportunity to do leading research in a truly world-leading international centre.
XMaS came about when the first of the world’s ultra-bright synchrotrons was being designed and built in Grenoble, France in the early nineties. The ESRF’s bending magnets were originally designed to simply steer the electron beam around the synchrotron ring between the newly developed insertion devices. It was soon realised that they were a potent source of synchrotron radiation which could exploited as new beamlines if funded by national groups. The UK took advantage, with Malcolm Cooper, here at Warwick, and Bill Stirling, first at Keele and then Liverpool, asked to devise a plan and to bid for EPSRC funds. Needless to say the first back-of-the-envelope designs were, with hindsight, rather naive and embarrassingly under-costed but detailed design work by our small project team generated a viable blueprint, which has since stood the test of time.
When it opened for users in the autumn of 1997 it was never, in our wildest dreams, envisaged that it might be still operational 25 years later. Of course XMaS has undergone a continuous programme of improvement and upgrades over the years with including developing sophisticated sample environments and advances in x-ray metrology. A major refurbishment was necessitated by the recent comprehensive upgrade of the ESRF and as a consequence we now have what is virtually a new beamline and fit for purpose for many years to come.
Initially the science case for the beamline was devoted for the study of magnetic materials, very much in vogue in the 1990s. In fact the acronym XMaS stood for X-ray Magnetic Scattering but the facility has since evolved to encompass a broader materials programme (polymers, liquid crystals, catalysts, etc.) using a variety of techniques (spectroscopies, wide and small angle scattering etc.). The facility has four permanent staff and two postdocs on site, who carry out their own research as well as help the visiting research groups run a very diverse range of experiments. Following the retirement of Malcolm Cooper in 2010, XMaS has been led from Warwick by Tom Hase with admin support from Sarah Jarratt.