Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Soft Robotics in Radiation Environments : A Prospective Study of an Emerging Automated Technology for Existing Nuclear Applications Public Deposited

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  • Traditional robots have a long history in nuclear-related work because their integration decreases risk to humans in dangerous environments. Soft robotics is one promising new branch of traditional robotics with proposed applications in industry, medicine, and society. Collaborators from the Robotics mLab at Oregon State University (OSU) are currently working on a proof of concept soft robotic manipulator built from 3-D printed silicone elastomer. It is therefore an opportune time to analyze the potential of this new soft robot and similar models to contribute to nuclear environments. This prospective analysis identifies the components of the soft robotic system and representative radiation environments for robotic tasks, then measures the functional capability of these components in the environments. Samples of polydimethysiloxane (PDMS) were exposed to gamma irradiation then studied for changes to mechanical properties, including elongation, tensile strength, and compression. Results from these tests showed less than a 25% gamma-induced change in all but the highest exposure environment. In addition, a 7-hour exposure of PDMS to the mixed radiation flux surrounding OSU's TRIGA research reactor (OSTR) resulted in activation of some unexpected impurities, including members of the lanthanide series. Liquid metal sensors being considered for use in soft robotics were also tested by measuring resistance during gamma exposure at 0.1 Gy/hr; no changes were noticeable. Electronic components including drive mechanisms, cameras, and signal communications were assessed using past literature. A comprehensive assessment of these individual results concludes that soft robotics have functional potential in radiation environments and therefore warrant further study and engineering.
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  • Project sponsored by NNSA NA-24.
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