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X-ray absorption spectroscopy is a spectroscopic in situ technique which combines the high penetration strength inherent to X-rays with the advantages of local probe techniques, such as no need for long range order and the ability to obtain information on selected sites of a given sample only. Consequently, this technique is applicable to a broad variety of scientific questions, including many applications in biological, agricultural and environmental sciences. The first part of this review provides an introduction to the method, whose application to a broad variety of problems is discussed in detail, especially XAS of sulfur in biological systems. In the second part new ideas for further experiments using this versatile method are presented.