Advances in understanding of sensor and other modern complex materials are often enabled by new research tools. This paper highlights three capability development themes used to identify new research tools to be provided to users of the U. S. Department of Energy's Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory. These capability development directions address the importance of dynamic measurements in realistic environments, the need for increased resolution in three dimensional analyses as well as the importance of linking theory and experiment. Capability development involves expanding the range of operation for a number of important techniques, developing and applying new capabilities, and advancing methods of data processing. Examples of current developments are provided including those related to magnetic resonance, x-ray diffraction, application of a focused beam capability to fuel cell aging, and near real time analysis of x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy spectra.