Scientific progress is anything but automatic. The path to new discoveries is not a straight line. But while the route to nuclear energy breakthroughs may be circuitous, automated solutions can enhance the efficiency of the research process and get to the innovation a little sooner.
For example, Kamrynn Schiller, an Idaho National Laboratory (INL) nuclear research facility engineer, has designed a robotic system to support post-irradiation examination work at INL’s Irradiated Materials Characterization Laboratory (IMCL).
IMCL is home to an impressive array of highly sophisticated analytical instruments, with capabilities ranging from transmission electron microscopy to atom probe tomography. Researchers use its capabilities to examine irradiated materials – such as samples of nuclear fuel or its protective cladding – at the microstructural level to figure out why they responded to irradiation in particular ways. The data generated from this work are vital to ongoing efforts to develop advanced nuclear fuels and reactor materials.