Robots might be thought of taking over human’s jobs or, in the future, the world, but their first real-world uses were in areas too dangerous for humans or for tasks that human physiology just isn’t equipped for. Such is the job of TIM, the Large Hadron Collider’s “security” robot. But unlike what you might think of a security bot, TIM doesn’t protect the LHC and its humans from external threats. Instead, it prowls the innards of the facility, monitoring for environmental dangers to one of the world’s most sophisticated scientific equipment.
You might also want to leave your preconceived notions of what robots look like at the door. No hands, no feet. Not even arms iconic of many industrial and assembly line robots. Instead, TIM looks like a train suspended from the ceiling. It’s no coincidence either, as TIM stands for “Train Inspection Monorail”, which practically tells what the robot is for.
TIM is an autonomous robot, though its autonomy is much more limited than you might think. Not only can it not detach from its rails, it also follows pre-programmed “missions”. These include, but are not limited to inspecting the LHC tunnel to make sure there are no structural problems. It can take both visual and infrared recordings along its journey. Perhaps most importantly for the humans working at the LHC, TIM also takes radiation and oxygen level readings to ensure that everything is within safe parameters.
When the situation calls for it, TIM can also pull along small wagons. This is almost something it has inherited from the LHC’s former LEP (Large Electron Positron) monorail, which once used the same tracks that TIM now rolls on. That said, the fastest TIM can travel is 6 km/h, so it’s not exactly something you can hang from for a joy ride.