A metallic tomb raider? No, a new savior for germ-infested crypt mural

Engineers at China Academy of Space Technology, who were tasked with exploring ways to protect tomb murals, turned to robotics for help.

A mural protection robot made its debut to great fanfare at a recent domestic exhibition on cultural relic protection.

The robot, developed by China Academy of Space Technology, a sub-unit of state-run China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, is designed to zap the bacteria clinging to murals with high-energy electron beam (EB).

This is the first time that robotics are applied in China to improve archeological work and cultural heritage preservation.

With a robotic arm attached to a mobile wheeled chassis, the device can train an EB projectile from different angles on designated sections of a mural within a vault.

The EB rays are able to kill off harmful bacteria that causes murals to fade or chip over time.

Photo sourced from a Xinhua News Agency story

One of the benefits of the robot is its agility, allowing it to navigate tight space and narrow passages inside crypts.

This attribute proves useful for archeological work as many tomb murals are perennially exposed to high levels of humidity and decay easily.

Cultural relic preservation

Meanwhile, staff responsible for cultural relic protection have to work with extra care and caution as a misstep could result in further physical damage to murals.

Engineers at China Academy of Space Technology, who were tasked with exploring ways to protect tomb murals, turned to robotics for help.

The biggest obstacle that stood in their way, according to media reports, was the conditions of the environment in which the robot operates.

They came up with an autonomous robot capable of moving adroitly inside cramped vaults, rounding corners and extending its arm to hard-to-reach corners — all the while avoiding damaging murals.

Cultural heritage protection in underground tombs has been a long-standing issue. The birth of this robot has provided archeologists with new approaches to preserving cultural relics.

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Ni Tao

Ni Tao is the founder and editor-in-chief of cnrobopedia. Prior to cnrobopedia, he had a full decade of experience with a major state-run English-language newspaper as a tech reporter and opinion writer. He is also a communications specialist, having provided consultancy services to established firms like Siemens, Philips, ABinBev, Diageo, Trip.com Group (Nasdaq: TCOM, HK: 9961), Jianpu Technology (NYSE: JT) and a handful of domestic startups. A graduate of Fudan University, he writes widely about China's business and tech scenes and other topics for global publications including South China Morning Post, SupChina, The Diplomat, CGTN, Banking Technology, among others, and tries to impart his experience to students at Fudan University Journalism School, where he is a part-time lecturer. When he's not writing about robotics, you can expect him to be on his beloved Yanagisawa saxophones, trying to play some jazz riffs, often in vain and occasionally against the protests of an angry neighbor. Get in touch with him by dropping a line at nitao0927@gmail.com.

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