Houdini: In-Tank Mobile Cleanup Robot

by Hagen Schempf, Carnegie Mellon Univ, Pittsburgh, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Robotics for Challenging Environments


This paper describes design and analysis efforts to develop a new reconfigurable and collapsible working machine, dubbed Houdini, to remotely clean up hazardous-waste and petroleum storage tanks. The tethered robot system is designed to allow remote entry through man-way openings as small as 0.51 m (20) in diameter, after which it expands its locomotors and opens up its collapsible backhoe/manipulator and plow to subsequently perform waste or product handling operations. The design is optimized to meet stringent site and safety requirements, and represents a viable alternative to the long-reach manipulation systems proposed for hazardous storage tank cleanup. The design analysis was performed on key design parameters such as track-width and -length, vehicle weight and aspect ratio, to insure that the system will be able to be supported and locomote over/through a wide range of amorphous/solid materials. Theoretical and experimental analyses using the Bekker-parameters are presented to support these findings. The system has currently been proposed as an alternative to provide waste mobilization and removal solutions for hazardous waste storage tanks in the Department of Energy (DoE) complex, and we are currently teamed with two major aerospace and robotics companies, trying to obtain funding to develop an operational prototype system for the DoE. Other potential applications areas are the cleanup of heavy-crude petroleum storage tanks for American Petroleum Institute (API) inspection tasks and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required cleanup and/or decommissioning activities.

Subject Headings: Waste storage | Robotics | Occupational safety | Recycling | Parameters (statistics) | Storage tanks | Waste sites | Traffic engineering

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