[LINK] The Australian Synchrotron
stephen at melbpc.org.au
stephen at melbpc.org.au
Wed Mar 7 01:10:57 AEDT 2007
The Australian Synchrotron
"The Australian Synchrotron, nearing completion, has been funded by the
largest ever national collaboration in Australian science history, with
almost every university, state government and research organisation in
Australia and New Zealand contributing. In its energy range and
capabilities it will be comparable to any similar facility in the world.
Synchrotrons can be used for a myriad of research activities. Essentially
they provide extremely accurate maps of minute particles.
The Australian Synchrotron accelerates electrons in a linear accelerator
(or linac) to an energy of 10 Million electron volts and then boosts
them to 3 Giga electron volts, where they are stored in vacuum vessels in
a doughnut-shaped storage ring almost the size of the Melbourne Cricket
Ground playing surface in diameter.
The electrons are travelling near light speed and are bent around a circle
using huge electromagnets. Every time they are bent, they complain with
showers of photons (light) across a broad spectrum infra red to x-ray.
These energetic photons form narrow beams of light which are then
directed down hollow tubes where researchers in many fields manipulate and
select the wavelength they want, and shine the light beams on
experimental samples thus generating extraordinarily detailed and
accurate maps at the molecular and atomic level of the materials they are
The experimenters call the photon delivery system beamlines and their
experimental areas hutches so called because the first such areas
looked like rabbits hutches. These days they are much more sophisticated.
The computing hardware used on the Australian Synchrotron is a mixture of
commercial off-the-shelf components, server class PC hardware and
specialist data acquisition and signal conditioning hardware.
The software is based on an international collaboration called EPICS
standing for Experimental Physics and Industrial Control Systems.
Most synchrotron facilities use EPICS, and all those that do contribute
to it including the Australian synchrotron. It is a powerful
collaboration in the spirit of both scientific research and the success
of other collaborations such as the Linux operating system.
The Australian Synchrotron also uses Linux in various forms for its real-
time data collection, its data storage and its operator interfaces. There
are about 300 computers at the facility, ranging from embedded PCs with
Debian Linux, server class machines running a real-time Linux, ARM
processors running Linux and CENTOS and REDHAT Linux servers and
Connectivity to AARNet, the GRID and remote research networks is
currently being looked at, and research is also being performed into
virtual beamlines to be used for remote collaboration and training
There are two sectors in which Australian Synchrotron team members work:
the Accelerator systems and the Beamlines. They are all making extensive
use of open source software in the production of the required software
components, and by doing so have been able to produce the required amount
of functionality in both record time and with smaller teams than has ever
been achieved before worldwide!
The Team has taken EPICS software, which has existed and evolved for many
years, and applied it to modern hardware, operating systems and devices.
This approach has meant that many older and more conventional signal
processing techniques co-exist in harmony with newer techniques and
are held together with a common code base and communications protocols.
Also, since the team members knew the software well and being open
source helped they were able to guide the contractors staff, train
together and deliver quality systems that integrated, not only at the
plant level, but also at the source code level.
In fact, one of the major achievements of the team is the ability to
compile and release any version of source code for all systems in an
automated fashion. This level of control and discipline over the software
for such a complex machine is extremely unusual in the community and
bug-fixing unique it its class. It is one of the factors that has enabled
the commissioning of the facility to move faster than any comparable
facility in the world.
The team has enjoyed an ongoing relationship with the rest of the EPICS
and synchrotron community. We regularly attend the technical conferences
(both on-line and in person) and contribute all of the source code
developed here back to the scientific community.
The team is made up of local engineers and scientists who have worked in
a variety of large plants and laboratories from water supply,
electrical power, chemical plant, long range radar, defence, industrial
research, railways, general IT and a host of infrastructure projects.
There are 2 engineers with huge breadth and depth of experience and
working on this project has been a career highlight for us all."
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