Light-powered soft robots could suck up oil spills
by Staff Writers
Riverside CA (SPX) Dec 03, 2021
A floating, robotic film designed at UC Riverside could be trained to hoover oil spills at sea or remove contaminants from drinking water. Powered by light and fueled by water, the film could be deployed indefinitely to clean remote areas where recharging by other means would prove difficult.
"Our motivation was to make soft robots sustainable and able to adapt on their own to changes in the environment. If sunlight is used for power, this machine is sustainable, and won't require additional energy sources," said UCR chemist Zhiwei Li. "The film is also re-usable."
Researchers dubbed the film Neusbot after neustons, a category of animals that includes water striders. These insects traverse the surface of lakes and slow-moving streams with a pulsing motion, much like scientists have been able to achieve with the Neusbot, which can move on any body of water.
While other scientists have created films that bend in response to light, they have not been able to generate the adjustable, mechanical oscillation of which Neusbot is capable. This type of motion is key to controlling the robot and getting it to function where and when you want.
Technical details of this achievement are described in a new Science Robotics paper.
"There aren't many methods to achieve this controllable movement using light. We solved the problem with a tri-layer film that behaves like a steam engine," Li explained.
The steam from boiling water powered the motion of early trains. It is a similar principle that powers Neusbot, except with light as the power source. The middle layer of the film is porous, holding water as well as iron oxide and copper nanorods. The nanorods convert light energy into heat, vaporizing the water and powering pulsed motion across the water's surface.
Neusbot's bottom layer is hydrophobic, so even if an ocean wave overpowered the film, it would float back to the surface. Additionally, the nanomaterials can withstand high salt concentrations without damage. "I'm confident about their stability in high salt situations," Li said.
Li and UCR chemistry professor Yadong Yin specialize in making robots from nanomaterials. They controlled Neusbot's direction by changing the angle of its light source. Powered only by the sun, the robot would simply move forward. With an additional light source, they could control where Neusbot swims and cleans.
The current version of Neusbot only features three layers. The research team wants to test future versions with a fourth layer that could absorb oil, or one that absorbs other chemicals.
"Normally, people send ships to the scene of an oil spill to clean by hand. Neusbot could do this work like a robot vacuum, but on the water's surface," Li said.
They would also like to try and control its oscillation mode more precisely and give it the capability for even more complex motion.
"We want to demonstrate these robots can do many things that previous versions have not achieved," he said.
COVID-19 mobile robot could detect and tackle social distancing breaches
College Park MD (SPX) Dec 03, 2021
A new strategy to reduce the spread of COVID-19 employs a mobile robot that detects people in crowds who are not observing social-distancing rules, navigates to them, and encourages them to move apart. Adarsh Jagan Sathyamoorthy of the University of Maryland, College Park, and colleagues present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on December 1, 2021. Previous research has shown that staying at least two meters apart from others can reduce the spread of COVID-19. Technology-based me ... read more
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.