Ever since the Chernobyl disaster in the 1980s, scientists have been finding ways to study defunct nuclear power plants. Since radiation leaks can cause several health issues in humans, robots have been the answer for going in and getting the information researchers need.
Carnegie Mellon University, a leader in robotics education and innovation, has developed a snake robot that can take pictures inside of the pipes and other areas of the nuclear power plants. Though snake robots have been in development for years, this is one of the first models to actually work in the field.
The snake robot was deployed into the pipes of the Zwentendorf nuclear power plant in Austria. The plant, built in 1970, was never activated, according to an article on gizmag.com. With no radiation to worry about, it was the perfect testing ground for this robot.
Of course, this application could lead to development of robots to explore plants like Chernobyl or the Fukushima Daiichi power plant that was damaged during the 2011 tsunami in Japan. These plants contain miles and miles of pipes that current robots are unable to properly explore and test.
That is the great thing about robotics – it can go places that humans either can’t or don’t want to go. These harsh environments are no match for the robots designed for such a task. This particular Carnegie Mellon snake-like robot measures 37 inches long, with a diameter of 2 inches, and moves very similarly to an actual snake.
There are plans to further engineer these robots for search and rescue missions in rubble, as well as waterproofing them, which would make them even more able to explore the nuclear sites.
RobotWorx, a certified integrator of robots from FANUC, Motoman, Universal Robots, ABB, and KUKA robotics companies, doesn’t have snake-like robots slithering around the warehouse, but there are plenty of industrial robot arms just waiting to be matched with the right company.