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Laura Gonçalves Ribeiro: Optical markers help remote operators handle ITER’s safety critical environment

Tampere University
LocationKorkeakoulunkatu 1, 33720 Tampere
Hervanta Campus, Tietotalo, auditorium TB109
Date2.6.2023 9.00–13.00
Entrance feeFree of charge
Henkilökuva Laura Gonçalves Ribeiro:sta
The pursuit of nuclear fusion as a source of energy raises new technical challenges, particularly on how remote operators perceive the environment and conduct critical maintenance tasks. In her doctoral dissertation, MSc Laura Gonçalves Ribeiro proposes and tests practical machine vision solutions to enhance operators’ awareness in ITER’s experimental nuclear reactor.

While nuclear fusion may provide significant gains, its implementation has significantly higher operation and maintenance complexity when compared to the fission approach. Maintenance tasks need to be conducted by tele-operated manipulators, while operators are located elsewhere for safety reasons.

The remote operator needs to perform critical operations with tight tolerances, based on the visual feedback provided by on-board cameras. However, on-board radiation-hardened cameras often provide low quality, degraded outputs. Furthermore, video streams cannot provide all the visual depth cues that are needed for an accurate and effective operation.

Study results can be used to enhance operator’s situational awareness

In her dissertation, Gonçalves Ribeiro proposes a methodology to extract the pose of specific operational targets reliably and accurately using optical markers. The pose can be used to enhance operator’s situational awareness during critical operations. The dissertation consists of a collection of four papers and describes:

  • The design of retro reflective markers that can be easily detected in images and can withstand the challenging environment.
  • A robust, interpretable pipeline for marker detection and identification.

It also implements and tests the proposed solution in realistic test setups of two key use cases.

“We have integrated knowledge of machine vision, robotics and optics, and even some considerations of mechanical and material engineering into a practical working solution to a meaningful technical challenge”, Gonçalves Ribeiro states .

Gonçalves Ribeiro has worked as an Early-Stage Researcher in the Immersafe European Training network focusing on the deployment of immersive visual technologies in safety critical applications and has collaborated in several industrial projects for Fusion for Energy, the European procurement agency for ITER.

"The pursuit of nuclear fusion is particularly relevant as the world strives for alternative energy sources and many countries seek energetic sovereignty. I am happy to have contributed in a small way to this ambitious endeavor, Gonçalves Ribeiro says.

The proposed methods have applicability beyond the nuclear sector in applications where the pose of targets needs to be estimated with high accuracy in confined environments.

Gonçalves Ribeiro comes from the north of Portugal and looks forward to continuing to apply her knowledge to meaningful problems.

Dissertation on 2 June 2023

The doctoral dissertation of MSc Laura Goncalves Ribeiro in the field of applied machine vision titled Target Tracking Using Optical Makers for Remote Handling in ITER will be publicly examined at the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences at Tampere University at 12 o’clock on 2 June 2023 in auditorium TB109 of the Tietotalo (Korkeakoulunkatu 1, Tampere).

The Opponents will be Professor Sven Lončarić from University of Zagreb, Croatia and Dr. Grégory Dubus from Fusion for Energy, Spain. The Custos will be Professor Atanas Gotchev from Tampere University. The thesis is co-supervised by Dr. Sari Peltonen.

The doctoral dissertation is available online.

The public defence can be followed via remote connection.

Photo: Olli Suominen