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Scientists create robot which could save lives in a disaster

Japanese scientists have invented a robot, which could rescue people trapped after a massive disaster.

This snake-like robot has a camera on the front tip, allowing it to be controlled by professionals outside the immediate disaster area, such as a collapsed building, and can bend and manoeuvre its way around fallen debris.

The invention - worked on by a team at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan - is made of plastic and is 8 metres long and weighs around 3 kilograms.

The short brush-like hairs that surrounds it vibrates, allowing the robot to move at 10cm every second.

It works by shooting a jet of air through it, which means it is able to lift its front end from the ground and therefore can climb over debris.

The robot has already been tested at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station, which is the site of the 2011 nuclear disaster, where they discovered some problems with the robot. It got stuck on obstacles and the camera view was obstructed at times. This led the team to make changes to the snake-like robot, allowing it to reach heights of 20cm.

Satoshi Tadokoro, a Tohoku University professor who is part of the team, hopes the robot can be used in the future for searching collapsed homes after natural disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis.

It comes after a Japanese industrial group unveiled an underwater robot. It has its own lights and moves around with the help of tail propellors. It can collect data using its cameras as well as a dosimeter, which measures the absorbed dose of ionizing radiation.

Developers plan to use it to enter the primary containment vessel of Unit 3 at Fukushima next month, where they will hope to find the parts of melted fuel that has fallen to the bottom of the chamber and have been submerged by highly radioactive water.

Dale Klein, an outside advisor to the Tokyo Electric Power Co., said: "The fuel debris will be a challenge. No one in the world has ever had to remove material like this before. So this is something new and it would have to be done carefully and accurately."

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