CERN scoops prizes at National Instruments awards

At a National Instruments conference in Texas last week, CERN received three awards for excellence in systems design

Last week the NIWeek conference and exhibition in Austin, Texas, hosted the Graphical System Design Achievement Awards where computer-engineering company National Instruments recognized companies and universities that use graphical-system design to develop applications that meet complex challenges in science and engineering.

CERN scooped three prizes: the National Instruments Graphical System Design Achievement Award, the National Instruments Humanitarian Award and the Intel Intelligent Systems Award.

“Through the use of graphical system design, innovative problem-solving and hard work, the Graphical System Design Achievement Award finalists are developing applications that are meeting modern engineering challenges and changing the world,” says National Instruments cofounder Jeff Kodosky. “National Instruments is honored to recognize their significant contributions to science and engineering.”

CERN was selected for the particle accelerator and control systems for the MedAustron ion-therapy facility that was designed and constructed under the guidance of CERN in Austria. Ion therapy is an advanced form of radiotherapy, using beams of charged particles such as protons and carbon ions that are produced in particle accelerators to treat tumors. While in conventional radiotherapy X-rays traverse the body, depositing radiation as they pass through, charged particles deliver most of their energy at one point, sparing healthy tissue behind that point. The method is characterized by high precision, high efficacy and reduced side effects.

Control systems can contribute significantly to the performance of such particle accelerators. The system must accurately control the magnetic fields of several hundred magnets; must reconfigure the accelerator for large numbers of beam characteristics in a timely and reliable way and must be easy for medical teams to use.

“Thorough initial evaluation revealed that National Instruments hardware and software technologies meet the requirements to master these challenges”, says Johannes Gutleber, who leads the project’s accelerator control system.

National Instruments selected the 18 finalists for the Graphical System Design Achievement Awards from 152 submissions of authors from 29 countries. Winners were selected for each of the following nine categories: Advanced Control Systems, Advanced Research, Automated Test, Education, Energy, Life Sciences, RF and Communications, Structural and Physical Test and Monitoring, and Transportation.

A panel of technical experts and National Instruments executives determined the award winners based on criteria including technical difficulty and the benefits achieved from using the application.