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Monday, 22nd October 2012
In General Japan News,

HAL robot suit protects workers from radiation

Employees working at nuclear power plants have been promised additional protection against radiation by a new and innovative robotic suit.

The suit is named Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) and is controlled by brain waves.

Invented by Eiji Koyanagi, a Japanese researcher at the Chiba Institute of Technology and manufactured by Cyberdyne, the full body suit has a network of sensors that check electric signals emitted by the brain of the person wearing it.

Its 60kg mass is "almost unnoticeable" because the limbs of the suit move in unison with the wearer's limbs, effectively taking the weight off the person's muscles and giving them the freedom of movement.
A computer can also be connected to the system to monitor breathing, pulse and signs of fatigue.

Fans on the inside keep the wearer cool while the outer layer protects them from exposure to lethal radiation.

"We have to think of ways to protect nuclear workers, otherwise Fukushima won't be sorted out," said the researcher.

Koyanagi stated that this new device could be utilised to decommission the badly damaged nuclear power plant at Fukushima.

Unveiled at Japan Robot Week 2012 held in Tokyo from October 17th to 19th, HAL was revealed along with other inventions from top technological organisations and universities such as Futaba Corporation, Kanagawa University, Microinfinity Japan and Meiji University.

Other highlights were little robots to move over any harsh terrain using caterpillar tracks and collect information from places that are unsafe for humans.

The new invention could drastically change response times to any potential nuclear leakages and meltdowns in the near future, such as the one that occurred at Fukushima.

In March last year, an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale occurred in the north-west Pacific Ocean, 129 km east of Sendai, Japan.

A tsunami followed less than fifteen minutes later with waves up to 20 metres, which claimed many lives and destroyed infrastructure along the country's north-eastern coastline.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered a cooling systems failure, hydrogen explosions and full meltdown at three of its towers causing a 20 km radius evacuation.

The robotic suit could help workers get closer to the damaged core than ever before, without the fear of contamination.

Posted by Mark Smith