The robotic fish is designed to help clean plastic from our waterways

The robotic fish is designed to help clean plastic from our waterways

Guildford, England A plastic-eating robotic fish has been chosen as the winner of the University of Surrey’s public robotics competition that allowed people to come up with a design for an animal-inspired robot that would benefit the world and the environment.

This was the first year that the university was held Natural Robotics CompetitionNearly 100 applications were received from people interested in nature and robotics for a chance to see their design transformed into a true engineering discipline.

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Dr. Robert Sydaloriginally from California But he was raised in United kingdomteaches aeronautical engineering with a focus on robotics in University of Surrey.

He said there have been a slew of interesting designs that have been submitted by people around the world in the hope that they will be turned into a working robot.

Some of these designs included a robotic bird for forest protection and a robotic sea urchin.

“We chose both Eleanor because we really liked the idea and the way they used bioinspiration, but also because cleaning up ocean plastic was the most popular goal of all the entries we received, so we thought the winner should reflect that,” said Sydal. Weather Fox.

WINNING DESIGN: Robofish Gilbert

“We are known to have a problem with plastics in the environment,” said Eleanor McIntosh, a chemistry student at the University of Surrey. “We are faced with the challenges of figuring out ways to reduce and prevent it as well as clean up the water that is already there.”

Mackintosh created the winning design, which was selected by a panel of international judges.

She said she wanted her design to reflect efforts to rid the world’s water of plastic.

“I decided to base the design on a fish and focus on the gill properties specifically because fish use their gills to filter oxygen in their blood,” she said.

So, she said, she used that and adapted this ability as a filter for microplastics.

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“I tried to design it in such a way that it worked like fish gills,” she said. “With the mouth open and the gills closed, water and particles fill the cavity inside the fish’s body. Next, the mouth closes, the gills open, and the cavity is compressed to force the water out of the gills and through the mesh filter, which will trap the microplastics inside the fish’s body.”

However, this was not her first design.

Mackintosh told FOX Weather she had initially had a plant-based design in mind, but found that the robot fish could be developed a bit more.

“So I decided to improve on this concept instead,” she said. “At that point, there were only two iterations of the design before I was happy with the final version.”

From idea to reality

After the winning design was selected, work began on turning the idea into a working robot.

“We took some time and discussed our approach to building it and then started designing directly. Our rule for ourselves was that we only had to use components and fabrication that everyone had access to, which is why the entire robot is 3D printed,” Sydal said.

However, it was not an easy journey.

“We went through two prototypes,” Sydal said. “A leak appeared in the first version of the fish, and we destroyed all the electronics. In the end, it took about a month to design and build.”

Ultimately, the robot is built and tested, and the hope is to continue improving the design.

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“I already have a few students working on motorized boats to sample water health, so the fish will be added to our fleet,” Sydal said. “Our plan is to create a base station where the fish can dock to deliver samples and recharge. It contains the sensors needed for autonomy. , but we need to write more code to make it swim on its own.”

So, for now, Gilbert is connected to a power source. But with constant advances in design, it may be an excellent way to remove microplastics from the world’s waterways.

To date, Gilbert is used only in small lakes and streams.

“We’ve focused on lakes and small streams mainly because there’s a real lack of data compared to the oceans,” Sydal said. “The fish can swim happily in the ocean, although it’s only plastic, so they can’t go particularly deep.”

For now, anyone with a 3D printer can build their own Gilbert and use it locally, and Sydal said there will be a more complex version soon.

“I’m only working with other researchers at the moment, but I’m talking to wildlife and nature organizations to do some experimental robot missions in the near future,” Sydal said.

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