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The rise of the radiation protection robots

Meet Mario Di Castro, leader of the Mechatronics, Robotics and Operations section, in the last of our Knowledge Transfer spotlight series


Knowledge Transfer Spotlight article series featuring ...
Mario Di Castro has developed a range of equipment capable of carrying out work in hazardous environments (Image: CERN)

Intelligent robotics systems are becoming essential for carrying out work in harsh environments, both at CERN and in industry. That is why Mario Di Castro’s work on intelligent robots capable of conducting various activities in contaminated areas caught the interest of CERN’s Knowledge Transfer (KT) group, which scouts for unique knowledge and cutting-edge technologies throughout the Organization to maximise its global positive impact on society.

Mario has played an important role in building up the team behind CERN’s mechatronics activities, which develops robotic solutions for remote inspection and maintenance that rely on software used to manage autonomous and intelligent robotic platforms. The technology includes drivers that allow integration of various commercially available components, such as sensors and robotic arms, into the hardware platforms. Part of this software was first licensed to the start-up Ross Robotics, a company that develops modular robotics platforms. Mario has also participated in the support of other start-up activities through the collaboration agreement with Terabee, a sensor company that was hosted in the French Business Incubation Centre of CERN Technologies, InnoGEX.

Mario gladly acknowledges that CERN’s challenging environment has catalysed the Organization’s progress in the field of robotics: “We resort to remote maintenance to face the environmental hazards that characterise CERN, and we are always striving for innovations in this field”. The harsh environment, especially in regard to radiation levels, led to the development of nifty robotic gems available for technology transfer: CERNBot, a modular and flexible platform capable of high-precision operation in the presence of ionising radiation, and the Train Inspection Monorail (TIM), a unique, modular, extensible robotic inspection monorail capable of carrying out a variety of different missions autonomously.

More recently, Mario has been working with CERN’s fire brigade on MARCHESE, an inexpensive, lightweight and portable device that will recognise human beings and monitor health parameters from a distance through the use of machine learning. After participating in a workshop with HUG exploring how ICT technologies developed at CERN could contribute to addressing technological challenges in the healthcare sector, he began to explore new potential applications. With the support of KT and its medical applications budget, Mario has received funding and resources for further research and development.

Mario’s numerous knowledge transfer activities throughout his career have given visibility to his activities externally and led to innovation in his work at CERN: “I always gain different insights on my research when talking to industry. This translates into interesting evolutions in the technologies that I develop”.

Learn more about how to get involved in CERN’s knowledge transfer activities here.

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