In only three years, the PILATUS@SNBL project has come a long way: from an idea over construction and commissioning to a heavily overbooked platform, used by a broad user community . Chemists, physicists and material scientists employ the diffractometer at the BM01A branch in various fields of basic and applied research. This success is not a coincidence.
The SNBL is a split beamline (BM01A and BM01B branch lines) that has been operating for over 20 years. Recently, in the scope of the PILATUS@SNBL project, the two diffractometers of BM01A, equipped with two detectors, were replaced with a flexible goniometer and one PILATUS 2M detector. This combination, supported by a user-friendly software suite for data collection and processing, resulted in a multi-purpose beamline that supports various types of X-ray crystallographic experiments including single crystal measurements, in situ powder diffraction, high pressure and thin film characterization.
The PILATUS 2M detector was chosen for this diffraction platform as the ideal balance between large active area and moderate weight. Its size allows not only flexibility in the movements of the mechanical parts (detector support, kappa goniometer, rotary tables) but also collection of a large angular range in a single exposure. These two parameters are crucial for the operation of any multi-purpose beamline.
The diversity of users and their requirements are supported by a single program, Pylatus, developed for the user-friendly and versatile control of the diffractometer and ancillary equipment. All data obtained by PILATUS are processed by one of the programs that are integrated in the in-house package SNBL-ToolBox. Crysis and Esperanto translate PILATUS single crystal data to suitable input format for Crysalis, and Converter deals with powder data, preparing it for processing in Fit2D. Pylatus and SNBL-ToolBox made small molecule crystallography and diffuse scattering measurements very comfortable at BM01A.
A powerful feature of the SNBL-software support is Bubble, a common project of SNBL and DUBBLE (Dutch-Belgium Beamlines). This is a software project dedicated to online integration of powder diffraction data. The development of Bubble reflects the needs of the ever-growing powder community, which has adopted PILATUS as a fast and convenient tool for sample characterization. The combination of Bubble’s online integration, the speed of PILATUS, and Pylatus’ advanced features has resulted in a much improved quality and range of dynamic experiments. Time-resolved measurements are now easily accessible, and in situ diffraction techniques are routinely combined with Raman, UV or VIS spectroscopy.
Synergistic approaches are often employed in investigations of new functional materials, where collecting a full diffraction pattern in real time or the local environment relies on superior data statistics (Delgado, T. et al. (2015), Hino, S. et al. (2015), Humphries, T.D. et al. (2015)). Gigli and co-workers took this approach one step further and exploited the noise-free performance and high dynamic range of PILATUS for a detailed structural analysis of a zeolite material (Gigli, L. et al. (2014), Gigli, L. et al. (2015)), a difficult task that is usually performed at high-resolution powder beamlines. These results should encourage the powder community to take full advantage of the potential of 2D HPC detectors for their research.
The flexible setup and full user-support have resulted in a wide range and quantity of proposals for the PILATUS@SNBL platform. We congratulate the BM01A staff on their great work and wish them loads of interesting data!
For the full description of the beamline setup the reader is referred to the paper by Vadim Dyadkin et al. A short overview of single-crystal applications at BM01A can be found in the recent article by Dmitry Chernyshov, and for details on in situ and structural analysis studies on powder samples visit the DECTRIS Applications section.
 Dyadkin, V., Pattison, Ph., Dmitriev, V., Chernyshov, D. A new multipurpose diffractometer PILATUS@SNBL J. Synchrotron Rad., 23 (2016), 825.