Analysis and Development of Instrument Software Paradigms: Conception and Implementation of a New Instrument Control and Data Acquisition System, Proven by Material Scientific Applications

Flemming, Stefan Alexander (2013). Analysis and Development of Instrument Software Paradigms: Conception and Implementation of a New Instrument Control and Data Acquisition System, Proven by Material Scientific Applications. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f11a

Abstract

During the last 50 years, the quality of analysis methods in many scientific disciplines has been enhanced by electronic applications, automation and data processing. While the features, performance and usability of these processes have been continually enhanced, it is conspicuous that the majority of institutes operate own proprietary software. This situation arises for both historical and financial reasons, plus a wish to retain autonomy fuelled by the requirement for a system that remains compatible with both new and legacy hardware.

This thesis reviews the commonly used scientific software systems and their stakeholders and tries to identify generic problems. The demands on instrument systems are summarized by a requirement specification. Based on these requirements, a basic concept is developed that reflects the current state-of-the art in software design and which may provide a blueprint for instrument system architectures.

The results are used to create a proof-of-concept implementation. Core to this approach is an application server that comes with a container, which makes use of the Inversion-of-Control pattern to loosely couple and execute components. These do not need to implement fixed interfaces and are thus decoupled from a specific use-case. Components can, for example, be proxies that control and acquire data from legacy hardware, perform calculations, provide a human-machine interface or act as storage. They are dynamically wired to experiments using XML-based Assembly files. Both Assemblies and Components can be published using a central store on a collaboration platform and shared by the community. This increases reusability and allows the use of existing Assemblies with new hardware by simply replacing the hardware proxy modules.

Example components have been provided for the access to legacy and new instrument hardware, the storage of results in the NeXus format, data reduction, simulation with McStas, the execution of customizable scans and the visualization of data.

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