Plastic microparticles pose a serious environmental threat. Everywhere from the summit of Everest to the melting Antarctic ice, they’ve been discovered. Human blood has been discovered to contain microplastics. However, the seas may be the area where they are having the most influence. Most marine garbage is made from plastic, which degrades into microscopic pieces that are eaten by fish and may have devastating effects on marine ecosystems.
Hence the development of fish-shaped robots that can clean up the seas while swimming, which scientists have been working on for some time now.
Scientists at Sichuan University in China constructed a fish-bot using a light-activated polymer that can collect microplastics while swimming in water, and their findings were reported in the journal Nano Letters on Wednesday. They think the new robot might be used to move contaminants to a site where they can be collected and disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner. Detection and monitoring of microplastics in less hospitable conditions, such as the arctic seas, may also be possible.
The demonstration of the proof-of-concept robot demonstrates its peak swimming speed of 2.67 body lengths per second, which is equivalent to the speed of plankton.
A near-infrared light laser is used to activate the fish-bot, which is constructed of a composite material safe for marine conditions. The robot’s “tail” can flutter back and forth when the laser is turned on and off, enabling it to swim like a real fish. Similar to how suckerfish attach themselves to whale and sharks, microplastic particles gets stuck to its body as it travels. Additional benefits include self-healing properties due to the substance the Sichuan University scientists utilized.
A solution to the issue of microplastic pollution in our oceans is nevertheless a creative one, even if we’re still a long way from seeing fish-bot schools in the seas.