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Architecture for grid-enabled instrumentation in extreme environments

Taylor, Philip 2008. Architecture for grid-enabled instrumentation in extreme environments. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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Technological progress in recent decades has led to sensor networks and robotic explorers becoming principal tools for investigation of remote or "hostile" environments where it is difficult, if not impossible for humans to intervene. These situations include deep ocean and space environments where the devices can be subject to extreme pressures, temperatures and radiation levels. It is a costly enterprise to deploy an instrument in such settings and therefore reliable operation and ease of use are requisite features to build into the basic fabric of the machine. This thesis describes the design and implementation of a modular machine system based on a peer-to-peer, decentralised network topology where the power supply and electronic hardware resources are distributed homogeneously throughout a network of nodes. Embedded within each node is a minimal, low-power single board computer on which a real-time operating system and MicroCANopen protocol stack are operating to realise a standard interface to the network. The network is based on a grid paradigm where nodes act as resource producers and consumers, sharing information so that the machine system as a whole can perform tasks. The resulting architecture supports "plug-and-play" flexibility, to allow users or system developers to reconfigure or expand its capabilities by adding/removing nodes at a later time. An immediate application of this instrument is in-situ sampling of microbes in extreme aqueous habitats. The microbial sampler is targeted at providing improved sampling capabilities when performing physical, chemical and biological investigations in deep- ocean hydrothermal vent environments. At these depths the instrument is subject to immense pressures of many thousand pounds per square inch, where superheated, corrosive, mineral-loaded vent fluids mix with near-freezing seawater. In the longer term, it is anticipated that this flexible, open interface architecture on which the microbial sampler instrument is based will be applicable more generally to other sectors, including commercial and scientific markets.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Earth and Ocean Sciences
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GB Physical geography
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
ISBN: 9781303185380
Funders: EPSRC, NERC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2016 23:14

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