Throughout the world cryostats and dewars are used to transport and store liquid materials at very low temperatures. Those devices are often very large and can only be inspected during maintenance periods, when they are emptied.
This project aims at developing a robot able to move freely inside the cold volume, perform inspections and transmit data for analysis. In particular, during the first year, the project will focus on the key enabling technologies needed to make such kind of inspection robot successful: energy management, visualisation, data transmission, motion control. The idea for the Curious Cryogenic Fish stems from the Neutrino Physics domain, in which large cryostats (typically filled with liquid Argon) are used as an active medium in which particle detectors are installed. In the past years there has been good progress in instrumenting those cryostats with fixed cameras, purity monitors, detailed temperature gradient monitors, etc. Nevertheless, especially for visualisation, fixed cameras have short-comings because of their limited coverage. In addition, the devices used so far, do require heaters to keep the cameras at a high enough working temperature, something that is inherently contrary to the aim of using a cryostat to avoid heat sources for the stored liquid.
The Curious Cryogenic Fish Project aims at developing a robotic device suitable for operation in large cryostats. In particular, the robot is required to perform diagnostic measurements (e.g., detection of bubbles formation, leaks, sparks, etc.), integrating the functionalities and performances of a diagnostic station with the flexibility of an unmanned vehicle. Such a device would allow operating inside the cryostats without emptying them, thus avoiding the high cost of putting them out of service (e.g. in the transport industry) at fixed intervals of time. Similarly, the advantage of the robot is that it would be able to spot micro-fissures (through bubble formation), thus indicating the need for repair before any major contamination of the liquid or, even worse, macroscopic mechanical failures.
Last but not least, compared to today’s instrumented cryostats, the robot would eliminate the need for having many distributed sensors, thus simplifying cabling, limiting heat dissipation and offering complete coverage of the inner volume of the cryostat.