The Materials Microcharacterization Collaboratory: Scientific Collaboration over the Internet

M.C. Wright and C.R. Hubbard
Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Instrumentation and Controls

The Materials Microcharacterization Collaboratory (MMC) was created last year as a pilot project within the US Department of Energy's DOE2000 program. DOE2000 is a new initiative to fundamentally change the way scientists work together. The DOE2000 program has three main goals: improved ability to solve DOE's complex scientific problems, increased R&D productivity and efficiency, and enhanced access to DOE resources by R&D partners. One of the strategies to meet these goals is the construction of national collaboratories. These provide the integration on the Internet of unique or expensive DOE research facilities and expertise for remote collaboration, experimentation, production, software development, modeling, or measurement. In addition, collaboratories will benefit researchers by providing tools for video conferencing, shared data-viewing, and collaborative analysis. Cooperative pilots projects, jointly funded by DOE2000 and a scientific program area, are expected to lead to clear success in the scientific environment: they will provide new capabilities and will increase the efficiency of doing the work (reduce travel, increase communication, provide for sharing data among formerly disparate environments, and so forth).

While the MMC is centered around electron microscopy, beam line facilities also play an important role in the project. Included in this collaboratory are the Neutron Residual Stress Facility at ORNL's High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR), the X14A beamline at BNL’s National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) and potentially the UNICAT beamline at ANL’s Advanced Photon Source (APS). Microscopy is represented by five DOE BES and EE funded electron microscopy centers located at ANL, LBNL, ORNL (2) and the University of Illinois. Also included is the National Advanced Manufacturing Test Bed (NAMT) program of the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST). Together, the participating Centers represent virtually every technique which employs electrons, ions, photons (including x-rays), and neutrons to elucidate the microstructure (internal or external) of inorganic materials. It is the intent of the MMC to join these centers of excellence into a single on-line interactive Materials Microcharacterization Collaboratory and thus increase the utilization of these capabilities while greatly decreasing the time constant associated with multidisciplinary materials research.

The Industrial Partners in the MMC are an important part of the collaboratory. Through their cooperation, technical and financial assistance we will be able to greatly accelerate the objectives of this project. The current industrial partners are Gatan Inc., R. J. Lee Group, EMiSPEC Systems Inc., Philips Electronic Instruments, Hitachi Instruments, Inc., Japan Electron Optics Laboratories-USA, Sun Microsystems, and Graham Technology Solutions. More industrial partners are expected to join.

(posted 21-Oct-97 jw)