Materials MicroCharacterization Collaboratory
The MMC will require 3 distinct groups of tools: Interactive Communications, Instrument Control, and Data Analysis. As appropriate we intend to utilize the infrastructure-based tools (brokerage, security...) that are being funded through other parts of the DOE2000 initiative. Security requirements range from low level security for typical university users to strong security for industrial users doing full cost recovery proprietary work.
1. Interactive Communications
A platform independent (PC, Mac, Unix) multicast, audio/video interactive conference capability is the minimum acceptable implementation in this area. The interactive equivalent of a A/V MOO is an appropriate paradigm. Since interactive communication is of such wide interest nationwide, we expect to make significant use of the work of other groups.
2. Interactive Instrument Control
We will develop a uniform architecture model that will standardize the user interface to a basic set of operations common to instruments in all the facilities. These control tools will include platform independent operation; a uniform interface having the equivalent of plug-in modules for instrument specific customization; intelligent agents to perform specific local (routine) operations (e.g. automated adjustments and alignments); a remote tactile interface for selected user interaction; and compatibility with the high bandwidth transmission requirements of microscopy. We envision a broad spectrum of remote users for the collaboratory’s instruments. One extreme is the high end user who is accustomed to traveling to gain access but would rather be able to sometimes access MMC instruments remotely. The other is the casual or occasional user who is unlikely to be able to use the instrumentation unless access is relatively low cost and intuitive. For the latter, we will expand our present Web-based interfaces that provides a basic subset of the instrument's functionality. The former desires/needs full control of the instrument with an interface that’s “as good as being there”, and will be significantly enhanced through the use of a tactile response interface coupled with advanced computer automation capabilities.
The necessity for rapid transmission of large data sets such as image information used for instrument control will be an area of concern for the Collaboratory. Data transmission requirements for microscopy-based operations currently exceed the available bandwidth of the Internet and of most switched connections, even with the use of data compression. As new technology emerges, the bandwidth problem may become a lesser concern, and the pilot project will take advantage of new technologies as they develop. Some of the routine, bandwidth intensive tasks (like alignment or fine-tuning procedures) will be automated to eliminate unnecessary network loads where it is appropriate and make the "local instrument" smarter and more powerful.
3. Interactive Data Analysis
A subset of image processing/analysis tools specifically directed toward on-line analysis of "live" data will be needed to provide requisite functionality. For example, connections to high-performance data engines could be used to provide continuous updates of optical diffractograms of atomic resolution images displayed next to live data, or spectral processing windows, with continuously updating analyses. Data base resources such as the x-ray powder diffraction file would be accessed on-line to allow, for example, rapid analysis of crystal structure.
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