Microplastics are quite harmful to animals if ingested, but are very tough to clean up, that is unless…you use these mini robot fish. Researchers developed light-activated robot fish that measure around 0.5mm and basically swim around, picking up and consuming microplastics from the environment.
These small, flexible and self-propelled robot fish are able to reach microplastics that have fallen in cracks and crevices with ease. How? It’s made from nacre, a strong and flexible material, found on the inside surface of clam shells. One side of this material has lots of calcium carbonate mineral-polymer composites, while the other is mainly a silk protein filler. To synthesize nacre for these robot fish, the researchers made nanosheets of β-cyclodextrin molecules to sulfonated graphene before incorporating it into polyurethane latex mixtures. The final material was very similar to nacre and fabricated using layering techniques. Fortunately, you won’t have to teach rats how to operate these robots.
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I think nanotechnology holds great promise for trace adsorption, collection, and detection of pollutants, improving intervention efficiency while reducing operating costs. It is of great significance to develop a robot to accurately collect and sample detrimental microplastic pollutants from the aquatic environment,” said Yuyan Wang, study co-author and Polymer Research Institute of Sichuan University researcher.