Preparing robots to survive longer in extreme radiation environments
01 Sep 2021



Scientists from the University of Essex have developed a method that helps protect the workings of robots when they're exposed to radiation

Maria Kastriotou on the ChipIr instrument.

​​​​Maria Kastriotou on the ChipIr instrument.​


​When carrying out tasks in environments with high radiation levels, such as in decommissioning nuclear sites, it is often essential to use robots rather than people, due to hazardous radiation. However, the radiation can also damage the electronics inside a robot, causing it to fail much more quickly, than if it was used under normal conditions. Developing strategies to prevent such failures will enable the robots to be used for longer. 

One such strategy is the use of scrubbing technology, which reads back data from the memory and corrects errors that have been caused by radiation damage. In this study, researchers from the University of Essex developed a selfscrubbing scheme that can be used to protect systems used in high radiation environments. 

To test their new design, they brought it to the ChipIr instrument, where the high neutron flux replicates long periods of time in a high radiation environment. They found their design to be successful and reliable, achieving a high correction rate and better performance than existing solutions. Their experiments also showed that the cost of the hardware needed does not grow linearly with the available RAM size, making it suitable for devices where limited resources are available such as mobile robots.

Related publication: “A self-scrubbing scheme for embedded systems in radiation environments.” 2020 IEEE 26th International Symposium on On-Line Testing and Robust System Design (IOLTS) 

DOI: 10.1109/IOLTS50870.2020.9159718​

Contact: Jones, Evan (STFC,RAL,ISIS)