We perform fundamental experiments focussed on microstructure formation during solidification. Our aim is to gain a deep understanding about the interrelationship between melt properties, external factors, such as flow, and microstructure formation. Our experiments are carried out in the range of furnaces we have developed at the institute. X-ray diagnostic methods enable us to observe the solidification process under real-time conditions. Levitation experiments allow us to investigate alloy systems which are highly reactive and of high melting point. In experiments at zero gravity we can specifically eliminate disturbance due to flow. Such experiments are a crucial contribution to the development of theoretical and numerical models on the micro and mesoscale, which, via quantification, open the way to future realization of computerized material design from the melt.