Global Lambda Integrated Facility

Microscopy Distributed Laboratory Demonstrator




United Kingdom: University of Oxford, Materials Research Centre; Oxford e-Research Centre (OeRC)
United States: University of California San Diego (UCSD), National Center for Microscopy Imaging Research (NCMIR); UCSD Center for Research in Biological Systems; UCSD Calit2


With Microsoft funding, UCSD and Oxford University created a Microscopy Distributed Laboratory Demonstrator to provide a total collaboration solution for electron microscopy. The project’s goal is to demonstrate how a Microsoft-enabled infrastructure can provide a solution for collaborative tele-instrumentation that scales beyond the singular capabilities being leveraged for this effort.

MDLD in action

Biological and materials science electron microscopy are both challenged by a need to increase the collaborative use of rare and specialized instruments; effective solutions need to connect researchers to these unique resources, to one another, and to the data. For electron microscopy, this goal is complicated by a number of constraints. The imaging techniques are extremely data intensive, and the ability to process the 3D and 4D data at the time scales suitable for interactive collaboration typically requires more computational horsepower than is available at most advanced microscopy facilities. The further need for high-definition video to “steer” the instruments in real time requires next-generation networking performance that spans oceans, and more importantly, navigates last-mile hurdles. The exploration and analysis of massive data, especially to assist real-time control, requires visualization technologies that can integrate and interactively display ultra-high-resolution data from multiple sources and of multiple modalities (3D, 4D, streaming, etc..).

MDLD in action

The Microscopy Distributed Laboratory Demonstrator will extend the switched LambdaGrid optical network project 'OptIPuter', now active at UCSD, to Oxford University. Specifically, two of the world’s most advanced electron microscopes in the US and UK will be featured. The instruments at UCSD and Oxford both represent the state of the art in intermediate voltage and aberration corrected geometries for TEM, with the instrument at Oxford being the world’s only double corrected instrument (for both spherical and chromatic aberrations). The shared use of these resources represents a unique opportunity to link biological and materials science technical expertise across two leading resources, and provides a forum by which materials scientists and biologists can share expertise and experience.