Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Researches build robot to sniff out methane at landfills

Researches build robot to sniff out
methane at landfills

A team of researchers at
Sweden's AASS Research Centre at
Orebro University has built a robot
prototype that moves itself around in
its environment searching for
methane leaks. In its initial testing
phase, the robot, dubbed Gasbot,
was able to sniff out artificially
created methane sources in a former
landfill and in an underground
Methane leaks are a constant
problem for landfills and other places
that are subject to rotting material.
Such leaks present a fire hazard as
well as an environmental problem —
some estimates suggest landfill gas
emissions contribute up to 2 percent
of all manmade greenhouse gas
emissions . For that reason, scientists
have been searching for ways to
better detect gas emissions (generally
methane) in landfills—the current
method relies on sensors being hand
placed in suspected areas by
technicians—a hit or miss proposition
to be sure.
In this new effort, the team in
Sweden affixed a Tunable Laser
Absorption Spectrometer sensor to a
Clearpath Robotics Husky A200—a
mobile robot . They also added a GPS
device. The idea is that the robot will
roam around a landfill pointing its
laser randomly around it as it goes.
As it does so, it will be able to take
measurements of methane levels
around it and then use that
information to build a map. Thus, to
monitor methane levels at a landfill,
all technicians would have to do is
read the map sent wirelessly from
the robot in the comfort of an indoor
The Husky A200 is essentially a
programmable automated box on
four wheels—its purpose is to carry
equipment or supplies around in a
ruggedized fashion. It was designed
to be used by researchers working on
various robotics projects and is thus
highly amendable to multiple
configurations via customization.
The researchers report that while
they were pleased with the initial
successes of the robot prototype,
they acknowledge that much more
work will need to be done before
such a robot will be ready for
deployment in a real landfill.
Specifically, it will need to be more
ruggedized to deal with bigger and
the more random nature of
obstacles. Also it will need an
upgrade to be able to scope out wide
areas of terrain autonomously for
long periods of time. The ultimate
goal is to design a robot that can be
produced in large numbers for use in
a wide variety of environments as a
for-profit venture.
More information: Project: http://
Research paper: Towards Real-World
Gas Distribution Mapping and Leak
Localization Using a Mobile Robot
with 3D and Remote Gas Sensing
via IEEE Spectrum

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