Europe’s first multi-national synchrotron has been given the green light for a €177m upgrade that will see the facility improve the experimental resolution of a third of its existing 40 experimental beamlines.

The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), located in Grenoble, France, provides intense beams of X-rays that are used by over 5000 visiting scientists each year to probe the structure and properties of materials for experiments in condensed-matter physics, biology and materials science.

The planned upgrade, to be fully completed by 2015, includes improvements to beamline optics that will focus the diameter of the X-ray beam to just 10 nm. This will allow researchers to study nanometre-scale objects such as quantum dots as well as resolve the structure of objects smaller than one micrometre.

The upgrade will try to meet the increasing demands of biologists who use synchrotron radiation to solve the structure of new drugs. New instruments at the ESRF will be able to measure thousands of biological samples per day.