Progress against microplastics: Chinese scientists are developing a robotic fish that can absorb the smallest plastic waste in the sea.
Munich/Sichuan – It is tiny, only 13 millimeters long. And yet it can become a hope in the fight against microplastics in the oceans. According to various media reports, scientists at the Chinese University of Sichuan have developed a robotic fish that can collect the smallest plastic particles in seawater. The researchers have now presented their results in the scientific journal Nano Letters .
Microplastics in the oceans: can a robotic fish from China help?
Accordingly, the bionomic robot is programmed in such a way that it can remove microplastics from the oceans. It is said to move through the water at 30 millimeters per second, which is the speed of plankton (organisms in the direction of the water current). The robotic fish is controlled by thermal radiation using a near-infrared laser. By turning it on and off, its tail flaps back and forth, causing microplastics to stick to its fish-shaped body.
The layered structure of mother-of-pearl served as a model for the scientists. Seen through the microscope, the robotic fish is said to have an external structure like a brick wall. Mother-of-pearl is a composite material made of organic matter that is found, among other things, on the inside of shells.
Robot fish from China can pick up the smallest pieces of plastic in the sea
Microplastics are a major ecological problem on the world’s seas and oceans in the Pacific and Atlantic. As the science magazine t3n reports, there are now up to 18,000 pieces of plastic waste of various sizes floating on every square kilometer of sea surface. But that’s not all: 90 percent of plastic waste is said to be on the seabed. Plastic is considered resistant to salt water, so pollution is constantly increasing, which threatens marine mammals and fish alike.
So far, according to its developers in China, the robotic fish has only been available as a prototype. More research is needed, according to Yuyan Wang, a researcher at the Polymer Research Institute of Sichuan University. As the lead author of the study further reports, only then can the robotic fish be made marketable. (pm)