Publication / Nuclear

Usability study to qualify a dexterous robotic manipulator for high radiation environments

Published: Nov 2016

Dr Héctor Marín-Reyes

As particle accelerators become more and more powerful, the detectors at the center of the high energy collisions subjected to higher and higher intensity radiation.

Radiation activation is when something previously inert becomes radioactive after being subjected to large amounts of radiation.

When a detector reaches the end of its lifetime or is upgraded, the radioactive elements must be disposed of appropriately.

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.

The use of dexterous robots is being explored for delicate decommissioning tasks, where the use of excessive force, or damage to surroundings, is undesirable.

The main purpose of the University of Birmingham cyclotron facility is to produce radio-nuclides for local hospitals, however it is also used to evaluate the performance and durability of new technologies and components for the ATLAS experiment upgrade. The high intensity irradiation area in the facility was built for this reason.

This paper examines the radiation tolerance of a robotic manipulator, to assess its suitability to work in the ATLAS decommissioning.

The manipulator was taken from the Shadow Robot Company’s dexterous Hand.

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

The paper is accessible via the IEEE website.