Wernet, P.: Chemical interactions and dynamics with femtosecond X-ray spectroscopy and the role of X-ray free-electron lasers. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 377 (2019), p. 2017046/1-30

X-ray free-electron lasers with intense, tuneable and short-pulse X-ray radiation are transformative tools for the investigation of transition-metal complexes and metalloproteins. This becomes apparent in particular when combining the experimental observables from X-ray spectroscopy with modern theoretical tools for calculations of electronic structures and X-ray spectra from first principles. The combination gives new insights into how charge and spin densities change in chemical reactions and how they determine reactivity. This is demonstrated for the investigations of structural dynamics with metal K-edge absorption spectroscopy, spin states in excited-state dynamics with metal 3p-3d exchange interactions, the frontier-orbital interactions in dissociation and substitution reactions with metal-specific X-ray spectroscopy, and studies of metal oxidation states with femtosecond pulses for ‘probe-before-destroy’ spectroscopy. The role of X-ray free-electron lasers is addressed with thoughts about how they enable ‘bringing back together’ different aspects of the same problem and this is thought to go beyond a conventional review paper where these aspects are formulated in italic font type in a prequel, an interlude and in a sequel.