Publication / Nuclear

Evaluating the Radiation Tolerance of a Robotic Finger

Published: Jul 2018

Dr Gabriel Kapellmann Zafra, Dr Héctor Marín-Reyes

The industries of space, energy, particle physics, and medicine all intersect with radiation. Either directly (medicine, industry, nuclear energy), or as a byproduct (space and particle physics).

Decommissioning of radioactive materials is a common concern, as the risk of human exposure to radiation must be weighed against the environmental and economical impact of leaving the site to decay unattended.

Radiation tolerant robots offer an alternative approach, where decommissioning tasks can be carried out while minimising the radiation exposure to human personnel.

Dexterous robots are required for delicate decommissioning tasks, where the use of excessive force, or damage to surroundings, is undesirable.

The ATLAS detector is a multi-million-pound particle detector at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva.

In 2024, the innermost part of the detector will be decommissioned and upgraded.

The ATLAS detector is a highly sensitive experiment several stories underground. It is also of particular historical importance, as it was the first to detect the Higgs Boson, a cornerstone to the Standard Model of particle physics.

The decommissioning process faces unique challenges: the possibility that the outer-detector be damaged during the decommissioning process, and a significant health risk posed by excessive radioactive dust.

Robotic Finger

This paper examines the radiation tolerance of a dexterous industrial robotic manipulator, to assess its suitability to high radiation tasks.

The manipulator was one of 3 that make up the Shadow Robot Company Smart Grasping System.

It was evaluated at the University of Birmingham Cyclotron facility, where it was subjected to a high energy proton beam.

The finger was performing a set of repetitive tasks during the irradiation. It was monitored live to see when it failed, and which component was responsible.

The paper is accessible via White Rose Online

Presented at the TAROS conference.