Thermal Control of Robot in Cold and Hazardous Environment

Projects in the robotics category:

  • Biomimetics: Robotic Stingrays Biomimetics: Robotic Stingrays
  • Biomimetics: Robotic fish Biomimetics: Robotic fish
  • In-Pipe Leak Detection In-Pipe Leak Detection
  • Inspection Robots: Robots for Inspecting Liquefied Natural Gas Storage Tanks Inspection Robots: Robots for Inspecting Liquefied Natural Gas Storage Tanks
  • Optical Assembly Station Optical Assembly Station
  • Palletizing Robots Palletizing Robots
  • High Speed Direct-Drive Robots High Speed Direct-Drive Robots

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Liquid natural gas and liquid petroleum gas are stored in steel alloy tanks at approximately -160C and -45C, respectively. These tanks need to be periodically inspected for cracks, corrosion, and other defects. Currently the inspection process involves sending a human into the emptied tanks with inspection equipment. In order to make the tanks safe for human ingress they need to be warmed for 10-14 days. The cost of this shutdown is about 15 million dollars per day and is still hazardous for the human inspectors. This project is to develop an inspection robot that can enter the tanks at much lower temperatures thus reducing the maintenance costs and limit the risk to human inspectors. There are many robotic inspection systems out there, but these systems are not designed for cold and hazardous conditions, thus they would not be suitable for placement into the tanks in question. A new system needs to be designed which can work inside the tank under cryogenic temperatures and hazardous conditions to inspect the floor of the tank. Past work has been focused on the localization of the robot within the tank, and current work is investigating a thermal control system for the robot when operating inside the cold and hazardous environment.



High-Speed Large-Range Atomic Force Microscopy

Atomic force microscope(AFM) is a powerful and versatile instrument with a wide variety of applications ranging from imaging and nano-manipulation to characterizing mechanical properties of various types of samples. The speed limitations of this device however, have constrained its capabilities. In this research we develop controls, instrumentation and signal processing techniques to achieve ultra-high imaging speed for AFM and unlock its true ability. The new possibilities made available through the contributions of this research will be explored in areas such as materials, and biological sciences.

See our latest work on the design of a high-speed large-range atomic force microscope. This work is highlighted  in Boston Globe and MIT-news.


Multi_Act AFM

Left: A schematic view of the designed AFM and Right: the AFM setup with a close-up view of the multi-actuated scanner. Various components are labeled/numbered similarly in (a) and (b). The scanner is composed of a (from top to bottom) (1)fast/short-range out-of-plane actuator (Z2), (2) fast/short-range lateral positioner (X2) for raster
scan, (3) slow/large-range out-of-plane actuator (Z1), (4) slow/large-range lateral actuator (X1) for raster scan,and (5) slow/large-range lateral actuator for frameup/down motion (Y).

Click on each item to see the corresponding AFM videos of calcite etching captured with this AFM setup:  showing layer by layer removal of calcite terraces, deep pit formation and mono layer dissolution.

Multi-actuation can also be used to retroactively enhance existing AFM setups. See our paper on this approach here.

PI controlThe above figure shows an AS-130NM tube scanner with 130 µm lateral and 5 µm vertical range. This figure also shows an additional high-speed piezo flexure actuator mounted on top (left). On the right you can see the schematics of the experimental setup.