Abstract In this paper we present a few examples of surface science done at third generation synchrotron facilities. As explained in the introduction, third generation sources are characterised by a gain in brightness of three or four orders of magnitude. This allows performing experiments which were difficult or impossible before. The first part of the paper is dealing with experiments on magnetic materials and shows how dichroism and surface diffraction can bring new information. In the second part, we discuss two examples related to catalysis: the elementally resolved imaging of chemical waves and the structure of chemisorbs layers on a nickel surface at atmospheric pressure. How do atoms assemble in monatomic liquids? Do they form clusters? This question has been without answer for many years and it is only recently that an X-ray experiment has solved the problem. The fourth part of the paper describes recent results on the electronic properties of high T c superconductors and heavy fermions, studied by high resolution photoemission. Finally, we present a prospect of a few experiments that could be done in the near future.