About us

The Partnership for Soft Condensed Matter (PSCM) is a scientific and technical platform enabling ambitious large-scale Soft Matter research projects addressing challenges in nanomaterials, environmental and energy sciences, and biotechnology.

The PSCM promotes the integrated exploitation of state-of-the-art neutron and synchrotron beamlines in combination with the most advanced laboratory techniques for the characterisation of a wide spectrum of systems ranging from soft interfacial thin films to complex multi-component bulk fluids. This section introduces the PSCM core staff and the members of the PSCM Steering Committee who can be contacted for any additional information. A short history of the PSCM can be found at the bottom of this page.

Core staff
Leonardo Chiappisi
Scientific Coordinator of the PSCM
His scientific interests are mostly focused on the preparation of complex functional systems from the spontaneous organisation of simple colloidal building blocks in aqueous solution and at interfaces. In his research, strong emphasis is put on the understanding of the thermodynamic forces driving the assembly processes, as well as the characterisation of the resulting structures and functionalities. To investigate such complex systems, he employs a broad range of techniques, ranging from calorimetry and volumetry, to scattering (light, neutron, and X-rays) and imaging methods.
Diego Pontoni
Scientific Coordinator of the PSCM
He graduated in Nuclear Physics at the University of Trieste (Italy) and performed post-graduate research in Detector Physics and Electronics applied to X-ray digital radiography (Prof E. Castelli) at the ELETTRA Synchrotron (Italy). He then moved to the ESRF in Grenoble (Dr. T. Narayanan, ID02) for a Ph.D. in Chemistry obtained from King’s College London in 2002 (Prof A.R. Rennie) with a thesis on colloidal phase transitions and nanoparticle nucleation and growth. After postdoctoral periods at the University of Karlsruhe in Polymer Science (Prof. M. Ballauff) and Harvard University in Surface and Interface Science (Prof. P. S. Pershan), he rejoined the ESRF in 2006 as a scientist of the High Energy X-ray Scattering beamline ID15 (Dr. V. Honkimäki). Since 2011, he has contributed to the PSCM implementation as Scientific Coordinator for the ESRF. His recent interests include Self-Assembly, Soft Interfaces, Ionic Liquids and Microfluidics.
Martina Sandroni
Chemistry Laboratories Manager
She graduated in Chemistry at the University of Torino (Italy), then she moved to Nantes, France for a Ph.D. on copper(I) complexes for solar energy conversion, that she obtained in 2012. Afterwards, she continued her research on coordination complexes during post-docs in Canada (Sherbrooke) and France (Brest, Grenoble). Part of her activity focused again on energy conversion, with complexes for electroluminescent devices and inorganic nanoparticles for hydrogen photoproduction in water. On the other hand, she also synthesized iron complexes for bio-mimetic oxygen reduction. In 2018, she spent one year at ESRF in Grenoble as electrochemistry laboratory responsible, and providing support to the users of a surface diffraction beamline. In October 2019, she joined ILL in the Soft Matter Science and Support group as chemistry laboratories manager.
Peter van der Linden
Microfluidics and Sample Environment Engineer
After engineering school in Eindhoven, Peter worked for five years at the High Field Magnet Laboratory of Nijmegen Unive University on the development of cryogenic sample cooling down to 1.2 Kelvin and measurements of resistivity and magnetisation in fields up to 25 Tesla. He came to the Grenoble High Field Magnet Laboratory in 1994 where he worked on dilution refrigeration down to 15 milliKelvin and measurement methods for use in static magnetic fields up to 30 Tesla and pulsed magnetic fields up to 60 Tesla. In 2003 Peter joined the ESRF where he developed amongst others miniature pulsed magnets up to 30 Tesla, different cryogenic systems such as the sample cooling for ID16A and ID32-RIXS and flash freezing of biological crystals under pressures up to 2kbar. Since 2016 Peter works at the PSCM on the development of 3D printed microfluidics.
Pierre Lloria
 Laboratory Technician
After studying applied physics and instrumentation in France and Ireland, Pierre joined the PSCM in 2015. He is in chacharge of many instruments at the PSCM (microscopes, UV-spectrometer, Rheometer…), and works in the PSCM sample preparation laboratory on a daily basis. Since his arrival at the ESRF, he greatly profits of the interaction with scientists, engineers, and PhD students to broaden his theoretical background and practical skills in various topics, such as instrumentation, sample preparation, machining, programming and electronics. He will be available to welcome you at the PSCM and give you full support during your future ESRF and ILL beamtimes. When not taking care of the labs, Pierre spends time cycling, climbing, skiing and exploring the beautiful mountains surrounding the capital of the French Alps. 
Steering committee
Jaques Jestin
Scientific Director
Oleg Konovalov
Group Leader
Michael Krisch
Director of Research ad interim
Ralf Schweins
Instrument Scientist

Origin and development of the PSCM

To better understand the needs of the ESRF and ILL soft matter user community, two seminal workshops were organized in 2004 and 2006. Shortly after, in 2008, the two world-leading research facilities decided to set up the initiative Partnership for Soft Condensed Matter (PSCM) and to create dedicated laboratories to allow the best possible use of the large scale research instruments of both ESRF and ILL. In 2009 the ESRF and ILL signed an official Memorandum of Understanding for the step-wise creation of the PSCM, which was rapidly followed by the first PSCM-dedicated workshop.


The ILL took the lead and reinforced the Soft Matter Support laboratories at the ILL in 2010 and 2011. 2012 brought the signature of the full PSCM agreement detailing the joint ESRF/ILL modes of PSCM operation within the dedicated Science Building under construction in 2013. Meanwhile the ESRF started to organize support labs based on complementary instrumentation donated to the PSCM by various ESRF beamlines.


The Science Building was inaugurated in 2014 with the organization of the second PSCM-dedicated workshop. By 2015 all ILL and ESRF instrumentation was transferred to the Science Building and made available to all ESRF and ILL soft matter users and staff. First pioneering european institutes and departments started to join the PSCM initiative as Collaborating Partner Organizations (CPOs) developing their 3-year scientific projects that profited from enhanced PSCM support services. By 2015, five CPOs had joined the PSCM following a case-by-case non-competitive access procedure.


In 2016 the PSCM contributed to the organization of the International Soft Matter Conference hosted in Grenoble. In 2017 the continuation of the PSCM implementation was approved as a result of the first PSCM Review Panel Meeting. The first competitive call for new PSCM partnership programs lead by external CPOs was launched in 2018. In 2019 the first PSCM Partner Selection Panel identified the six most advanced proposals, keeping for the other applicants the possibility to re-apply to subsequent calls. In 2020-2021 three new partners signed their CPO agreements despite the severe restrictions imposed by the pandemic.