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PostPosted: Aug 09, 2011 5:12 pm 
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We'd need bunch of rad hard robots! Anyone wants to apply for the NSF solicitation?

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The National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, USDA, and NASA have jointly announced the National Robotics Initiative under NSF Program Solicitation 11-553.

This program will make small awards (single investigator, up to five years) and large awards (multiple investigators, up to five years) with they following major aims:

-- Pursue fundamental research in robotics science and technology and in supporting specialties in machine cognition, language understanding and production, human-robot interaction, perception, systems and other disciplines relevant to co-robot capability and performance.

-- Explore how co-robotics designs can be enhanced by leveraging and integrating our understanding of human cognition, perception, action control, linguistics, and developmental science.

-- Establish open system robotics architectures and common hardware and software platforms enabling the technical community to build upon and interface to a layered capability or functional model and set of protocols.

-- Create a repository of software, hardware and data to encourage sharing of results and coordination of efforts on hardware and software, and contributions from users and "citizen engineers", and create the cyberinfrastructure to enable cloud robotics. Data will include standard test sets and specifications for common performance measures of algorithms and systems to encourage use of domain-specific metrics.

-- Sponsor a range of projects from one or more investigators to multi-faceted collaborative efforts that may include academic and industrial scientists in the core technologies; domain application specialists; educators; and social, behavioral and economic scientists.

-- Develop an understanding of the long term social, behavioral and economic implications of co-robots across all areas of human activity.

-- Create testbeds for integration of the outputs of multiple activities and their testing, demonstration and evaluation on high level and complex tasks.

-- Transfer new platforms and/or functional capabilities to agency mission applications and facilitate agency-specific technology demonstrations of robotic systems over the period of the initiative.
-- Establish competitions among funded projects for best performance of tasks to be defined by the participating program officers and managers. Competing teams may be comprised of individuals or groups with the option of partnering with unfunded collaborators from academia or industry.

-- Produce empirical findings that contribute to knowledge about the use of robotics to facilitate STEM learning across the K-16 continuum, with particular emphasis being placed on means to stimulate and motivate participation in STEM careers and broaden participation in them.

-- Coordinate with a separately funded companion effort to generate such advances leading to commercial products and services through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs and independent business plan competitions.

Proposals can be submitted in response to this solicitation or in response to a parallel solicitation from NIH (NOT-EB-11-006).

For NSF, letters of intent for small proposals are due October 1, 2011, and then annually on October 1. Letters of intent for large proposals are due December 15, 2011, and then December 15 annually. Small full proposals are due November 3, 2011, and then November 3 annually. Large full proposals are due January 18, 2012, and then January 18 annually.

Read the solicitation - with so many agencies involved, there is a lot to understand. BCOE investigator(s)may be working on proposal(s)and may be interested in collaborations.

The solicitation is available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2011/nsf11553/n ... c_ev=click



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PostPosted: Sep 05, 2011 6:48 pm 
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LTFR robots would need to near 100% mechanical and very simple. You saw how appallingly the robots and UAV at Fukushima operated- the more complexity, the more radiation shielding the more chances to fail in some way.


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PostPosted: Sep 06, 2011 2:34 pm 
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I would love to be involved. I have been trying to get involved with robotics for some time. I do not have grant writing experience nor a home institution so?


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PostPosted: Sep 06, 2011 2:39 pm 
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If one went for a rad hard version there are only two parts that are radiation sensitive the CPU and the sensors. They can be shielded with minimal weight they are small. It would be a nice way to focus on one specific thing this solicitation is all over the place.

Make a robotics standard. They might as well just give the money to Willow Garage.

I did like the DARPA little dog competition.


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PostPosted: Sep 06, 2011 6:06 pm 
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Are you going to be able stop the hard gamma radiation that the U-232 decay chain produces?


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PostPosted: Sep 06, 2011 7:57 pm 
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who says the robots have to be wireless. connect up the hydraulics and the joy sticks of a skid-steer with the cpu at the end of a copper cable.


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PostPosted: Sep 06, 2011 9:52 pm 
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I've been discussing what sort of jobs we need robots for and under what conditions with my son (robotics major at UCLA).
Seems like when the reactor is running inside the hot cell is pretty hostile territory even for a robot.
Here are some things I could imagine we would need - it would be good to see what is current industry norm for monitoring, measuring, and repair.

The toughest assignment is to run in the 600C hot cell while the full radioactivity is going.
This would be pump impellers, gas pumps, and valves.
Sensors needed in this environment include salt flow, gas flow, temperature, neutron, and vibration sensors. One would also need in service sensors for the HX wall to ensure that they aren't on the verge of failing.
Likely one want some visual monitoring as well - though some of this could be done through quartz windows where the sensor is in a less severe environment.
These sound more like machines and sensors rather than robots.

Next most severe environment would be in the processing plant where the radiation fields are less severe but still problematic. Anywhere the salt is you still are at the high temperature. Here there may be a need for shuffling containers as they fill with fission products.

Finally, during maintenance outages we need robots that can weld, move heat exchangers (or more precisely attach crane cables to facilitate the crane moving them) and pump impellers. The robots would need to be able to do inspections of pipes, vessels, heat exchange, etc. In this case, the temperature is cooler. (I wonder if it is valuable to keep the temperature somewhat high to reduce the temperature cycling wear and tear.)

I could envision robots that are self contained and well insulated. They would have a resting room where they could cool off and recharge between short assignments. They would need to have tow connections so that if they break down another robot can pull them out of the way.


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PostPosted: Sep 07, 2011 2:39 am 
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We need to know a bunch of things first. How hot will the hot cell operate? ORNL mentioned freezing as a problem in small lines and needed electrical heating for those lines so that tells you the temp was under 550 Celcius.

If the hot cell operates cooler it will be easier on the equipment but passive cooling becomes more difficult and line freezing (in the event of insulation deterioration) will be more of a design challenge. There's obviously some optimum depending on the specific design. As long as no basic design choices are made it won't be possible to look at what robots you need. (for example we haven't even determined whether it should be a pool type or loop type reactor).


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PostPosted: Sep 07, 2011 9:29 am 
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For MSRE ORNL used line heaters - and these were the cause of a substantial portion of their down time. They concluded that it would be simpler to keep the whole hot cell at temperature - likely something around 550C and I believe this was included in the MSBR design. We should assume the hot cell is kept around 550C.


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PostPosted: Sep 07, 2011 9:34 am 
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Lars wrote:
For MSRE ORNL used line heaters - and these were the cause of a substantial portion of their down time. They concluded that it would be simpler to keep the whole hot cell at temperature - likely something around 550C and I believe this was included in the MSBR design. We should assume the hot cell is kept around 550C.


Yes, that's what I figured as well. What about pool type versus loop type? The PB-AHTR is going for pool type. Perhaps we can use this as a starting point. We don't have the void reactivity problem but pool type does have many advantages in thermal, mechanical and radiation management.


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PostPosted: Sep 07, 2011 9:48 am 
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I think we need the loop to keep the fuel salt inventory reasonable but we could still put the whole reactor + heat exchangers in a pool. If you look at the French design the whole reactor is pretty small and putting the whole thing in a pool of molten salt seems reasonable to me.


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PostPosted: Sep 07, 2011 11:22 pm 
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cloa513 wrote:
Are you going to be able stop the hard gamma radiation that the U-232 decay chain produces?


No. But a few hits on the sensor is OK. For the memory we can use ECC. That leaves upsets in the CPU... well...we can do best two out of three voting brute force but OK. Don't forget to use gray coding for any local memory in the actuators.

This is for radiation not operation at temperature (600 degrees C).


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PostPosted: Sep 08, 2011 5:03 am 
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edpell wrote:
cloa513 wrote:
Are you going to be able stop the hard gamma radiation that the U-232 decay chain produces?


No. But a few hits on the sensor is OK. For the memory we can use ECC. That leaves upsets in the CPU... well...we can do best two out of three voting brute force but OK. Don't forget to use gray coding for any local memory in the actuators.

This is for radiation not operation at temperature (600 degrees C).


If you have the reactor vat at the bottom of a pool of clean buffer salt, you get protection from the hard gammas and neutrons. Three meters of buffer salt should do it. Then you have the robotics circuitry outside the pool so you only need to get the manipulators to reach inside the pool. The manipulators would need to resist radiation and high temperature. I think you can make the manipulators completely mechanical so that you don't have any electronics submerged in the pool. The electronics would be outside the pool and cooled by some fluorocarbon or something. I don't think we need very complicated movements, just screwing/unscrewing bolts and flanges and lifting modules out or in the pool. It is not more complicated than a car manufacturing line robot, except that we need to use different materials (Hastelloy N, fluoride resistant insulation etc).


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PostPosted: Sep 08, 2011 9:18 am 
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Cyril R wrote:
If you have the reactor vat at the bottom of a pool of clean buffer salt, you get protection from the hard gammas and neutrons. Three meters of buffer salt should do it. Then you have the robotics circuitry outside the pool so you only need to get the manipulators to reach inside the pool. The manipulators would need to resist radiation and high temperature. I think you can make the manipulators completely mechanical so that you don't have any electronics submerged in the pool. The electronics would be outside the pool and cooled by some fluorocarbon or something. I don't think we need very complicated movements, just screwing/unscrewing bolts and flanges and lifting modules out or in the pool. It is not more complicated than a car manufacturing line robot, except that we need to use different materials (Hastelloy N, fluoride resistant insulation etc).

Screwing/unscrewing bolts and flanges and lifting modules sounds like moving things that would have fuel salt inside. Since we don't want to lift out the fuel salt or have pool salt get inside the reactor core I'm thinking draining the fuel salt and the buffer salt would be mandatory prior to any such maintenance.

Second, ORNL thought that welding would be more leak proof than screws & flanges. They even have a paper on robotic welding. I'm not sure if this is still the opinion.

The things we need present during operations are the sensors. (I wonder if laser sensors through quartz windows would be a better choice for heat & vibration sensing?).


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PostPosted: Sep 08, 2011 1:18 pm 
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Well dumping the salt into dump tanks and having an extra flush salt tank for surging would be simple equipment that could be remotely activated with the push of a button. Luke here on this forum suggested a magnetic hatch in stead of a freeze plug which will dump the salt into the dump tank on demand but also passively upon overheating.

Remote welding can also be done. This is already done routinely in the nuclear industry for sealing dry storage stainless steel casks after the spent fuel is loaded into them. Welding under fluoride salt (the buffer salt in the pool) would be interesting, there shouldn't be any big problems but this has never been done before. The leak tight advantage of welding is a disadvantage for removal of modules. You need a substantial cutter and it will have to be done under a molten fluoride buffer salt environment.

Another suggestion by Luke is to have glassfiber optics in the hot cell for viewing, with the instruments outside the hot cell. Remember that the fluoride buffer salt is transparent so there may not be a need for fibers in the buffer salt itself.


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