Automatic Transfer System for Neutron Irradiation Test Bed

Photo of Robert Liu, Isidro Mendoza, Christopher Students: Robert Liu, Isidro Mendoza, Christopher "Adam" Soch

Sponsor: Los Alamos National Laboratory

Date: Fall 2011

Requirements:
The system must be an automated pneumatic system that follows the predetermined pathway sequence: hopper, neutron generator, detector, and disposal bin. The system must hold at least 20 samples at any given time. The system must transfer these samples from the generator to detector in less than 1 second and stop them less with minimal variation (1cm). The design should minimize the length of the pathway and must not exceed 100 psi in the system for the safety of operators and equipment. The team is constrained by the dimensions of the sample vial and must use radiation safe materials. In addition, we must maintain the sample vials in the vertical orientation to ensure that the sample is irradiated and detected uniformly. Finally, the solution must not exceed the budget of $20,000.

Problem:
Design a pneumatic automated transfer system to add, move, and remove hazardous specimens to alleviate operators from entering the experimental area. The new design should be less complicated than the current system and must endure exposure to radiation.

Solution:
Our final system uses a linear actuator to load the sample vials into the tubing. The linear actuator remains in the extended position to seal the loading mechanism and reduce pressure drop in the system. A system of two blowers then pneumatically drives the sample throughout the predetermined pathway. The sample is stopped at the neutron generator by a fixed cross-screw stopping mechanism made of Teflon and at the detector by an actuated stopping mechanism that uses another linear actuator. After retracting the linear actuator shaft, the sample is then moved to the disposal bin.

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