Instrument Development Laboratory
The mission of the Instrument Development Laboratory (IDL) is to design, develop, and deploy advanced state-of-the-art instrument systems and custom application software in support of the ongoing experimental research efforts within EMSL. IDL staff design and develop much of the custom hardware and software used at EMSL, and provide the critical support necessary to rapidly modify or adapt a user's system to help the user achieve the world-class results they expect at EMSL.
IDL staff provide electrical engineering expertise in high-voltage, radiofrequency, and high-speed analog and digital systems; digital signaling processing and FPGA technology; and rapid prototyping. In addition, IDL software engineers provide expertise in managing very large data sets, laboratory automation, data acquisition and instrument control, communication interfaces, graphical user interface design and development, and other critical software needs. These staff are fully experienced in many different operating systems and development environments, including VB, C, C++, Java, C#, and .NET.
The following software and electronics capabilities are available in the IDL to help users enhance their research.
- Electronics design and assistance – Staff in the IDL provide each step—from design through fabrication—to assist and support researchers who have expertise in electronic circuit design and fabrication. The IDL staff can design analog, digital and radio frequency technologies. As part of the design process, IDL staff work with researchers to provide unique circuits and key components otherwise unavailable.
- Design laboratory – Fabrication activities are conducted in the IDL design laboratory. Circuit design and analysis utilizes MicroSim PSpice A/D, Schematics, PCBoards, and PLSyn tools. Printed circuit boards can be routed quickly with a T-Tech Quick Circuit system. Lab benches are equipped with surface mount and through-hole soldering stations. Instruments are assembled and modified with tools in the prototype machine shop available next door. The IDL maintains a large stock of electronic components for projects as well as a stock of small electronics parts and common data acquisition boards to support fabrication activities. These components are available for all qualified users of the lab.
- User facilities and training – Part of maintaining the unique capabilities of the facility includes regular training for the IDL scientists and engineers. Opportunities for continuing education allow IDL staff to apply new skills and techniques to projects. IDL staff are available to train others as necessary on software and hardware tools. A computer workstation is dedicated to researchers who wish to use the MicroSim CAD programs. Electronic workbenches are available for researchers as well.
- Software development – Custom software and hardware is created in the IDL in support of researchers performing software development activities in data acquisition, instrument control, and scientific data analysis. IDL software engineers strive to develop modular, reusable software components which allow for rapid application development and modification that also integrate into the overall EMSL computing environment. Analysis and simulation applications have spanned chemical kinetics, molecular reaction dynamics, laser spectroscopy and high-resolution mass spectrometry. Researchers have a pool of software development tools and libraries for their use in the lab or on short-term loan.
- Instrument and software maintenance – The IDL team is responsible for ensuring the fabrication and test and measurement equipment are properly maintained and calibrated. Similarly, the IDL maintains the in-house software infrastructure. Compilers, data analysis programs, and software development tools are maintained and upgraded as needed to maintain the cutting-edge development capabilities of the facility.