Dynamic processes at the molecular scale in complex environments are found in a variety of phenomena ranging from, for example, protein folding to functional materials. To unravel the underlying structural and dynamical principles, the resolution in space, time and energy of present day analytical techniques must be significantly increased. While many analysis methods work well for homogeneous and highly ordered samples, they do not provide high resolution data in hierarchical structures and functional environments.

Owing to their short wavelength and relatively weak interaction with matter, X-rays offer a unique potential to reach high resolution and chemical sensitivity not only on the surface, but also in bulk samples, while being compatible with functional environments. However, current limitations in sources, optics and detectors prevent this promise from being fully exploited. Ambitious research goals are now fuelled by the significant progress in time-resolved x-ray sources which is at reach in the near future, in particular the free electron laser. However, in addition to large scale instruments, short pulse X-ray sources available as compact in-house instruments are supported by the CRC “Nano-Spectroscopy and X-Ray Imaging”.

Towards the goal of significantly enhancing analytical capabilities, X-ray optics, instrumentation and methodology will be advanced. The joint and synergistic research roadmap of the centre includes time-resolved spectroscopy and structure analysis, X-ray spectro-microscopy, lens-less imaging, data reconstruction and inverse optical problems, magnetic scattering and microscopy, as well as source, optics and detector developments. As a joint facility, the centre develops and operates advanced small and medium scale X-ray sources (laser-driven plasma sources, high-harmonic generation). It synergistically complements existing activities, in particular of the Collaborative Research Centre 755 "Nanoscale Photonic Imaging" by novel expertise in time-resolved X-ray sources and methods.