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While the ILL's neutron source has remained essentially unchanged during the lifetime of the Institute, the ILL's instruments and their components have been continually developed and improved to increase their effectiveness.

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Instrument Control

NOMAD: A new way of thinking experiments

NOMAD is the new ILL's sequencer to control instrument operations. The project, started in 2005, was initiated to overcome the major limitations of the previous software, mainly the aging of the adopted technologies and the lack of real software architecture which was problematic in view of the integration of the functionalities required by the new generation of ILL’s instruments.

The guidelines for the NOMAD development were the optimization of the manpower through highly shareable code among all the instruments, a user oriented design for tailored functionality and the improvement of the autonomy of the instrument teams thanks to a uniform and ergonomic user interface. The code sharing policy had two major advantages. First, optimization and scientific methods as well as the bug correction are immediately available to all instruments and second, the programmers work as a team reducing the development and the maintenance time. In addition to that, a set of dedicated hardware tuning and testing tools has been specifically developed to increase the efficiency of the electronic engineers when installing or changing instruments configuration.

NOMAD is based on client/server architecture and makes use of network and WEB technologies. The server, written in C++, is the core business containing all the instrument methods and the hardware drivers. The graphical user interface (GUI), written in JAVA, does not contain any instrument control intelligence but provides all the necessary functionalities for the interaction between user and server. The open-source industry standard CORBA connects, in a transparent way, server and client that can run on the same machine or on different computers.

All the instruments share the same executable while a set of XML configuration files adapts the hardware needs and the instrument methods to the specific experimental setup. Multiple threads handled by a dedicated scheduler, allow fully parallel execution of different tasks. NOMAD is fitted with a complete graphical representation of experimental sequences, providing an overview of past, present and future operations. Users have the freedom to build their own specific workflows using the intuitive drag-and-drop technique. A command-line approach, fully scriptable and compatible with MAD syntax, is available for more experienced users. NOMAD includes all the generic sample environment modules as well as all the instruments’ specific ones. The users are free to configure the needed equipment for a specific experiment and all the modules are available for the ensemble of the ILL’s instruments. The full integration between sequencer and sample environment control allows a better event handling and full synchronization.

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