When fabricating new semiconductors for computer chips, the external environment – such as the humidity, temperature, or vibration from nearby machines – can make or break the experiment. That holds true for many types of research involving scientific instruments, including the discovery of new materials or biomedical processes.A team of researchers at the University of Illinois is building a wireless and scalable sensory infrastructure that will help scientists better understand the conditions under which their experiments succeed or fail, with the idea of accelerating scientific discovery and the introduction of new technology to the marketplace. The National Science Foundation is funding the two-year, $500,000 project, titled “SENSELET: Sensory Network Infrastructure for Scientific Laboratory Environments."
“Our goal is to help scientists not have to repeat experiments so many times to find the winning formula,” said principal investigator Klara Nahrstedt, director of the Coordinated Science Lab and the Ralph and Catherine Fisher Professor of Computer Science at Illinois. “Ultimately, we want to speed up the discovery cycle for new innovations.”
The team’s goal is to deploy a diverse wireless and sensory infrastructure that collects data and sends it to the cloud, where it will be correlated and synched with instrument data in real-time and on demand. Along with providing valuable information to researchers, the technology will also help lab managers better understand conditions in the facilities they are in charge of maintaining.
“Lab environment data gives present status, information on changes and trends, and conditions during a process or measurement,” said Mark J. McCollum, principal research engineer at the Micro & Nanotechnology Laboratory. “Having this history and using it with 4CeeD provides important meta-data as well as a predictive path for management and operational needs in a physical device laboratory. It is exciting how SENSELET will make this conveniently available.”
SENSELET builds on previous NSF-funded work, which includes the development of the 4CeeD Distributed Data Infrastructure, a Web-based distributed capture, curation, and coordination tool that bridges the network and computing gap between scientific instruments and the remote cloud infrastructure. As part of the work, researchers also developed BRACELET, an edge device infrastructure that enhances security and performance issues that arise when connecting old instruments with the modern 4CeeD cloud infrastructure. 4CeeD operates on a cloud-based smart data management system called Clowder, developed by Illinois’ National Center for Supercomputing Applications.
In addition to Nahrstedt, the research team includes CSL’s Roy Campbell (Computer Science), Kenton McHenry (NCSA), John Dallesasse (MNTL), and Tracy Smith (Campus IT).