Over the past decade, the advances in grating-based soft X-ray spectrometers have revolutionized the soft X-ray spectroscopies in materials research. However, these novel spectrometers are mostly dedicated designs, which cannot be easily adopted for applications with diverging demands. Here we present a versatile spectrometer design concept based on the Hettrick-Underwood optical scheme that uses modular mechanical components. The spectrometer’s optics chamber can be used with gratings operated in either inside or outside orders, and the detector assembly can be reconfigured accordingly. The spectrometer can be designed to have high spectral resolution, exceeding 10 000 resolving power when using small source (∼1μm) and detector pixels (∼5μm) with high line density gratings (∼3000 lines/mm), or high throughput at moderate resolution. We report two such spectrometers with slightly different design goals and optical parameters in this paper. We show that the spectrometer with high throughput and large energy window is particularly useful for studying the sustainable energy materials. We demonstrate that the extensive resonant inelastic X-ray scattering (RIXS) map of battery cathode material LiNi1/3Co1/3Mn1/3O2 can be produced in few hours using such a spectrometer. Unlike analyzing only a handful of RIXS spectra taken at selected excitation photon energies across the elemental absorption edges to determine various spectral features like the localized dd excitations and non-resonant fluorescence emissions, these features can be easily identified in the RIXS maps. Studying such RIXS maps could reveal novel transition metal redox in battery compounds that are sometimes hard to be unambiguously identified in X-ray absorption and emission spectra. We propose that this modular spectrometer design can serve as the platform for further customization to meet specific scientific demands.
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