The Whole Picture with New E-Science Technique

Photo: Piece of a puzzle

Dr Lakshmi 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," 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.

Dr Sastry has taken the data-ftting program Dr Perring was using on his desktop and implemented it on the National Grid Service (NGS). RAL manages the NGS which makes distributed computing resources at six universities available to UK academics. Using the GAPtk toolkit, which Dr Sastry and colleagues developed, the output of the data-fitting program can then be visualised using advanced visualisation tools available on the Grid. "Users can visualise and manipulate gigabytes of data as single entities in near real time without expensive specialised hardware", says Dr Sastry.; Source: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council