Radioactive robot Lyra named Best Invention of 2022

A radioactive robot developed by University of Manchester researchers has been awarded Best Invention in 2022 by Time Magazine.

The robot, called Lyra, is one example of mobile robotic platforms designed for inspecting hazardous environments and is a groundbreaking invention that can change how people live, work, and think about what is possible.

Lyra was built by researchers at The University of Manchester, working within the Robotics and Artificial Intelligence for Nuclear (RAIN) Hub and with considerable guidance from technical and operations staff at Dounreay Site Remediation Ltd (DSRL).

In April, Lyra completed a survey of a radioactive ventilation duct below a disused laboratory at the Dounreay nuclear complex. It also used Lidar, a detection system similar to radar which uses lasers, and took swabs using a manipulator arm. Traversing 140m of duct from a single entry point, it provided detailed radiological characterisation information that can now be used to help plan safe and efficient laboratory decommissioning.

Previously this would be complicated to obtain and require operations staff to make additional airline suit entries into contaminated areas, increasing cost and elevating risk.

Barry Lennox, RAIN Director, says:  “The robot can accelerate the pace of decommissioning legacy nuclear facilities in the UK while simultaneously reducing the risk to humans, decreasing costs and even reducing the amount of additional low-level waste generated during decommissioning.”