Materials scientists get the whole picture with new e-Science technique

An output of the UK e-Science Programme is helping researchers to find needles of insight in the haystack of data generated by bigger and better facilities to probe matter with intense particle or X-ray beams. Dr Lakshmi Sastry will present the work at the e-Science All Hands meeting in Nottingham on Monday 19 September.

Dr Sastry and colleagues have developed new techniques to enable scientists to visualise data using distributed resources on a computing Grid. Dr Toby Perring is helping her to develop the techniques for users of the ISIS spallation neutron source at the CCLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL). "We've got really good instruments and need the software to exploit them to the full. The Grid will allow us to do this. All of us who run huge multi-detector instruments see this as the way forward," he says.

Two major new facilities are due to come on line at RAL over the next few years. The Diamond synchrotron X-ray source will start producing data on the crystal structure of many molecules, in particular those of biological significance, by the end of next year. Opportunities to study materials with neutron beams will more than double from 2008 when a second target station comes online at ISIS. Neutrons are especially useful for studying the position and motion of atoms within materials, which govern properties such as magnetism or high temperature superconductivity.

Dr Perring works with one of 19 ISIS instruments, MAPS, to study the motions of magnetic moments and atoms within materials. MAPS detectors take 30 minutes to two days to generate 10 million bits of data from one sample. This data needs to be visualised and compared, or fitted, with theoretical models if it is to be understood and interpreted correctly. "This is a sheer computing power problem. With a single processor we can't fit all our data to the models," says Dr Perring.

Dr Sastry has taken the data-ftting program Dr Perring was using on his des

Contact: Judy Redfearn
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

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