Cao, Y.; Mazzone, D.; Meyers, D.; Hill, J. P.; Liu, X.; Wall, S.; Dean, M. P. M.
Many remarkable properties of quantum materials emerge from states with intricate coupling between the charge, spin and orbital degrees of freedom. Ultrafast photo-excitation of these materials holds great promise for understanding and controlling the properties of these states. Here, we introduce time-resolved resonant inelastic X-ray scattering (tr-RIXS) as a means of measuring the charge, spin and orbital excitations out of equilibrium. These excitations encode the correlations and interactions that determine the detailed properties of the states generated. After outlining the basic principles and instrumentations of tr-RIXS, we review our first observations of transient antiferromagnetic correlations in quasi two dimensions in a photoexcited Mott insulator and present possible future routes of this fast-developing technique. The increasing number of X-ray free electron laser facilities not only enables tackling long-standing fundamental scientific problems, but also promises to unleash novel inelastic X-ray scattering spectroscopies. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Measurement of ultrafast electronic and structural dynamics with X-rays’.