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A Unified User-Friendly Instrument Control and Data Acquisition System for the ORNL SANS Instrument Suite...

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Applied Sciences
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In an effort to upgrade and provide a unified and improved instrument control and data acquisition system for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) instrument suite—biological small-angle neutron scattering instrument (Bio-SANS), the extended q-range small-angle neutron scattering diffractometer (EQ-SANS), the general-purpose small-angle neutron scattering diffractometer (GP-SANS)—beamline scientists and developers teamed up and worked closely together to design and develop a new system. We began with an in-depth analysis of user needs and requirements, covering all perspectives of control and data acquisition based on previous usage data and user feedback. Our design and implementation were guided by the principles from the latest user experience and design research and based on effective practices from our previous projects. In this article, we share details of our design process as well as prominent features of the new instrument control and data acquisition system. The new system provides a sophisticated Q-Range Planner to help scientists and users plan and execute instrument configurations easily and efficiently. The system also provides different user operation interfaces, such as wizard-type tool Panel Scan, a Scripting Tool based on Python Language, and Table Scan, all of which are tailored to different user needs. The new system further captures all the metadata to enable post-experiment data reduction and possibly automatic reduction and provides users with enhanced live displays and additional feedback at the run time. We hope our results will serve as a good example for developing a user-friendly instrument control and data acquisition system at large user facilities.