Oak Ridge team builds new way
to follow the bouncing neutrons
Posted June 26, 2013
If you’ve ever watched video over a slow Internet connection, you have some idea of what scientists face when working with big experimental facilities like the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
The SNS supplies intense pulsed neutron beams to scientists seeking clues to the fundamental nature of materials.
Recording how materials scatter neutrons can provide information about the materials’ internal structures at the atomic scale and about their reaction to stress and strain at larger scales. Whether scientists are designing lightweight, durable material for aircraft or components for new rechargeable batteries, information from scattering experiments can help them optimize properties like magnetism, superconductivity and energy storage.
But the SNS instruments usually use a file-based approach for data capture and processing. As researchers carry out experiments, the computer system generates files sometimes comprised of hundreds of gigabytes or terabytes of data. Generating and then processing those individual files could take as much as an entire day, says Thomas Proffen, director of the Neutron Data Analysis and Visualization Division at Oak Ridge.
A team of Oak Ridge researchers wants to give SNS users an experience akin to streaming video, making acquiring and analyzing data as efficient as possible.
SNS and most other neutron-scattering experiments are large, multimillion-dollar accelerators and are in high demand. The SNS accommodates around 500 experiments and more than 1,500 researchers each year.