A major concern of marine microplastic pollution is that fish and other aquatic animals may become harmed by consuming it… but what if the remedy to this crisis involves a robotic fish designed to consume it on purpose, cleaning up waste in our oceans?
This Robo-Fish Absorbs Microplastics Through Its Body!
An exciting new innovation coming from Sichuan University in southwestern China — scientists have now developed a tiny robotic fish that is programmed to remove microplastics from oceans, by swimming around and absorbing them on its soft, flexible, self-healing body!
Microplastics are the billions of tiny plastic particles which fragment from the bigger plastic things used daily, such as water bottles, car tyres and synthetic fabrics from clothing.
This type of pollution is one of the biggest environmental problems today. Microplastics become widespread in the environment and are very challenging to eliminate, making their way into drinking water, produce, and food, harming the environment, animal and even human health. But now, we may have the solution we’ve needed!
How Does This Little Robotic Fish Work?
Researches created this fish to collect microplastics by absorbing them through its body! How bazaar is that? It’s 13mm long and can “swim” by itself with the assistance of light, where an infrared laser is illuminated on its tail causing the material to bend and flap, propelling it forward. It can move around at almost 30mm a second, similar to the speed at which plankton drift around in moving water!
But what’s particularly outstanding is what the robo-fish can do while swimming: gather nearby microplastics. The robot is made from materials that have strong chemical bonds and electrostatic interactions with the heavy metals, dyes and antibiotics in microplastics. This then causes the microplastics to latch on to the fish’s body.
Mother-Of-Pearl Was The Inspiration For This Robot!
We think it’s wonderful that scientists look to the intelligence in nature to develop innovations, and this is excatly what the creators of the bionic fish have done.
The researchers sought out materials inspired by elements that thrive in the sea: mother-of-pearl, also known as nacre, which is the inside coating of clam shells. They created a similar material by layering various microscopic sheets of molecules according to nacre’s specific chemical gradient.
This resulted in a robo-fish that is stretchy, flexible to twist, and even able to pull up to 5kg in weight! Plus, the fish has regenerative abilities and can heal itself to 89% of its ability, and continue absorbing even if damaged or cut – which could happen in rough waters.
What an incredible, promising new innovation! More research is yet to be completed before the fish will actually be used in real-world applications. Currently, it can only swim at the surface of the water, but the team hopes to advance it to dive greater depths.
For more stories about sustainable innovations, check out our Eco News category and the blogs below!