Researchers from the CAS Institute of Optics and Electronics in Chengdu, capital of southwest China’s Sichuan Province, have been successful in building China’s first robot for searching and retrieving underwater foreign objects in nuclear power stations. The equipment is now being used in the Guangdong Daya Bay Nuclear Power Station, one of the largest commercial nuclear installations in China.
Loose or foreign objects in reactors would cause serious damages to nuclear plants. To inspect the problem and remove the objects quickly and safely, a remotely operated systems for a hazardous environment is in urgent demand.
The system developed by CAS researchers incorporates state-of-the-art technologies in the field of optics, fine mechanics, automation, information processing and system integration. It has the capability of searching and operation.
The robot system is composed of an underwater crawler, a two-dimensional pan and tilt, a TV camera system, an image compression and storage system, a mechanics gripper, a cleaner, a vacuum pump and a remote-controller. Its gripper could pick up a relatively large object such as screwdrivers or spanners, while its cleaner could deal with something smaller like a screw. With its vacuum system, the system could suck sediments such as broken glass or paint flakes. The total weight it could collect is up to one kilogram.
The robot system has many advantages, including small size, flexibility, low cost (only one eighth of an imported one) and large carrying capacity. The six-wheeled machine is capable of climb a slope up to 30ºC and move with a speed of 0-9 meter per minute. Its comprehensive advantages are obviously higher than its overseas counterparts, laying a solid foundation for the further development of underwater robots in China.