Automatic Transfer System for Neutron Irradiation Test Bed

Photo of Kendall Berns, Janet Fuchs, Jason Guidry, Michael Yoho Students: Kendall Berns, Janet Fuchs, Jason Guidry, Michael Yoho

Sponsor: Los Alamos National Laboratory

Date: Spring 2012

Requirements:
The testing samples, contained in chap stick shaped capsules, must travel from a loading mechanism to two testing stations and finally to a disposal bin. The samples must travel between the two testing stations in less than ten seconds due to short radioactive half-lives. Further, the samples must arrive at the testing stations within three centimeters of their target stopping points in order to generate reliable data. Finally, the system must be fully automated, must store twenty samples, and must be constructed within the project's $20,000 budget.

Problem:
The objective of this project is to design and construct an automated pneumatic transfer system to transport and identify very short lived radioactive isotopes from uranium fission in a predetermined pathway to prevent human exposure to radiation. The project focuses on designing the specific tubing pathway, loading and diverting mechanisms, and pneumatic controls.

Solution:
The prototyped loading mechanism pictured above stores twenty samples and operates via a stepper motor. The pneumatics are powered by air compressors and controlled via electric ball valves. Once loaded, the samples are transferred from a loading-disposal bin tube to a testing tube via a linear actuator powered diverter The samples then travel between their exact target locations at the two testing stations in less than three seconds before finally being ejected to the disposal bin. The final budget, including materials and labor, totaled $12,000. Suggested future work includes designing a computerized control system, eliminating pressure losses in the system to further increase speed, and permanently mounting the system to the testing room walls.

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