Max-Planck-Institute Selects Real-Time Publish-Subscribe Middleware for Plasma Control

Sunnyvale, Calif. - The Max-Planck-Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) announced April 16 that it has selected the NDDS middleware from Real-Time Innovations to handle controller communications in the next generation real-time control system of the Tokamak nuclear fusion device ASDEX Upgrade.


Sunnyvale, Calif. - The Max-Planck-Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) announced April 16 that it has selected the NDDS middleware from Real-Time Innovations to handle controller communications in the next generation real-time control system of the Tokamak nuclear fusion device ASDEX Upgrade. The Institute's pioneering distributed Tokamak control system is getting a thorough upgrade to meet growing research demands and to advance to critical operation regimes.

"The new control system design requires fast, efficient communications between real-time controllers and the experiment management system," stated Dr. Gerhard Raupp, head of the control group at the IPP. "NDDS provided the performance we needed, simplified the network programming, and let us mix the real-time and workstation platforms freely."

The new design features off-the-shelf controllers running the VxWorks real-time operating system interconnected via distributed shared memory with each other and via Ethernet with Solaris-based management stations to control the magneto-hydrodynamic activities in the Tokomak.

Middleware was a key component of the new design. Network communications among controllers and management workstations is complex. Low-latency communication is required to perform critical, plasma-control adjustments, and component failures must be accommodated in real-time. IPP designed comprehensive middleware tests and evaluated a number of products. They selected NDDS because it met their run-time performance objectives, it had a intuitive programming interface, and it was available for all their target platforms.

The institute's Tokamak, ASDEX Upgrade, has been in operation for over 10 years. It is a nuclear fusion device that uses ionized gas (plasma) to generate energy. To fuse the atomic nuclei, extremely high temperatures and good plasma confinement are required. Loss of control during operation can result in disruptions of the plasma, within milliseconds unleashing Mega-Joules of energy that can severely damage the Tokamak. Network communication among the real-time controllers is used to control the experiment and maintain the "magnetic cage" that confines the plasma. The communications are quite complex, including one-to-many messaging with very short deadlines for signals, and reliable communications among multiples nodes for state changes and alarms.

NDDS is publish-subscribe network middleware designed specifically for distributed, real-time applications. It uses the standard UDP interface provided by the operating system vendor to distribute data. The publish-subscribe application programming model eliminates network programming and is easy to learn. In addition to NDDS, Real-Time Innovations provides distributed system development tools. WaveScope provides a real-time view into NDDS operation to optimize application performance. WaveSurf provides a global view of the networked objects so problems can be located and fixed during system operation.

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Gary A. Mintchell, senior editor

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