Researchers at the American Chemical Society have created a light-activated, fish-like robot that can swim quickly, scavenging microplastics from water. Since microplastics are now present everywhere on earth, the robot could play a decisive role in measuring microplastic concentrations.
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Microplastics have become a threat in the world today, due to the difficulty in tracking them. Recently, studies have also shown that microplastics have spread even to the most remote regions of the earth and have been detected in the blood of humans and animals. Particles are known to affect human health and their presence in the ecosystem has become a threat.
Related: Microplastics Contaminate Human Blood, New Study Finds
The researchers demonstrated that the robot can repeatedly adsorb nearby polystyrene microplastics and transport them elsewhere. More interesting is the fact that the material used in the robot repairs itself if cut. Therefore, it retains its ability to adsorb microplastics for a very long time. Researchers are now pushing for the robot to be used in the management of microplastics in water sources.
One of the major issues that has plagued attempts to create such a robot has always been the materials used. Traditional hydrogels and elastomers used in robot construction can easily be damaged in aquatic environments. However, the researchers behind the new robot have developed a new material suitable for the ocean environment, which resembles mother-of-pearl, a substance found in clam shells. The material is very flexible and allows the robot to propel itself at ultra-high speeds.
Studies were made to find a suitable material that could make the robot flexible, but also durable. The final product was found to be able to move 2.67 body lengths per second, making it much faster than previously reported. It was previously said to have the same speed as active phytoplankton.
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