Are these robotic fish the secret to cleaning up our oceans?

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One of the dangers posed by microplastic pollution in the oceans is that fish and other marine life might eat it by mistake. But could a solution to the problem involve a robot designed to consume it on purpose?

 

Researchers at Sichuan University in China have developed a proof-of-concept for a robotic fish that can absorb microplastics through its body.

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“It is of great significance to develop a robot to accurately collect and sample detrimental microplastic pollutants from the aquatic environment,” study co-author and Polymer Research Institute of Sichuan University researcher Yuyan Wang told The Guardian. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first example of such soft robots.”

 

The new robotic fish was introduced in a paper published in Nano Letters on Wednesday. It is about half-an-inch long and can “swim” on its own with the help of light, according to an American Chemical Society press release published by Phys.org. An infrared laser shined on its tail causes the material to bend and flap, propelling it forward.

 

“The proof-of-concept robot is demonstrated to emphasize its maximum swimming speed of 2.67 body length per second, whose speed is comparable to that of plankton, representing the outperformance of most artificial soft robots,” the study authors wrote.

 

Related slideshow: Stop trying to recycle pizza boxes. Here’s why

Robotic ocean-cleaning fish

But what’s especially remarkable is what the robot can do while it’s swimming: gather nearby microplastics. The robot is made from materials that interact with the heavy metals, dyes and antibiotics attached to the microplastics, The Guardian explained. This, in turn, causes the microplastics to latch on to the fish’s body.

 

“After the robot collects the microplastics in the water, the researchers can further analyze the composition and physiological toxicity of the microplastics,” Wang told The Guardian.

 

The robot’s material is partially inspired by nature, BBC Science Focus Magazine reported. Specifically, researchers took their cues from mother-of-pearl, the material that coats the inside of clam shells. Mother-of-pearl, or nacre, is built in layers. The scientists designed the robot the same way, something that made it flexible enough to move but strong enough to last. First, they made nanosheets of β-cyclodextrin molecules to sulfonated graphene, according to the American Chemical Society. These were then incorporated into polyurethane latex mixtures and the final material was made using layering.

 

Related: Watch 19K pounds of garbage get scooped out of the ocean

 

Another unique property is that the robot is able to heal itself and perform at 89 percent of its original abilities, according to The Guardian.

 

More work needs to be done before the robots will actually be swimming around absorbing microplastics. Currently, it can only swim at the surface of the water, but the scientists hope to develop a version that can dive to greater depths.

Eventually, it could address some of the difficulties with getting microplastics out of the ocean, such as removing them from crevices, according to the American Chemical Society.

 

“I think nanotechnology holds great promise for trace adsorption, collection, and detection of pollutants, improving intervention efficiency while reducing operating costs,” Wang told The Guardian.

 

This article originally appeared on Ecowatch.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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This art is garbage. Literally

 

Washed Ashore is hoping to teach people about marine debris and plastic pollution through epic, giant artworks of sea creatures … all of which are made from, you guessed it, ocean garbage.

 

According to Washed Ashore’s website, the organization works with artists and scientists to educate the public on how consumer habits can cost sea creatures their habits, homes and even their lives. They hope to teach exhibit-goers that “every action counts.” The traveling exhibit has been on display at the U.S. State Department, United Nations, The Smithsonian National Museum’s Ocean Hall and more. You can learn more about Washed Ashore’s mission online.

 

Check out some of Washed Ashore out-of-this-world, large-scale sculptures and wall pieces below!

 

 

WashedAshore.org

 

This great white shark seems even more, well, great, when you remember it’s made from debris from the ocean!

 

WashedAshore.org

 

The detail on this giant penguin named Gertrude is stunning!

 

WashedAshore.org

 

This gigantic jellyfish is larger than life!

 

WashedAshore.org

 

This colorful turtle was created against the backdrop of its very own ocean, complete with algae and a jellyfish friend!

 

WashedAshore.org

 

The Whale Ribs arch is a popular attraction since visitors can walk through it and marvel and the craftsmanship from both inside and outside the arch.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

Priscilla the Parrot is a colorful feat that will surely capture your attention.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

SeeMore offers viewers a rather realistic depiction of a sea lion, considering it’s made completely from sea rubbish.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

This blue marlin artwork is one of many from Washed Ashore that is sturdy enough to be displayed outside!

 

WashedAshore.org

 

The magnificent red octopus truly shows off how garbage can be turned into a work of art.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

This giant shark comes with its own patch of sea algae, coral and more!

 

WashedAshore.org

 

You almost won’t believe this sturgeon is made from garbage; it looks so realistic and life-like!

 

WashedAshore.org

 

This patriotic bald eagle stands tall with its wings outstretched to the sky.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

One of many jellyfish made through Washed Ashore, this gumdrop jellyfish stands tall over a bed of colorful sea coral.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

The tufted penguin’s hair truly does look like, well, hair! And its orange eyes, beak and feet stand out against its black coloring.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

The blue and orange trigger fish floats atop some algae and rope.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

You’ll fall in love with this adorably cute polar bear named Daisy!

 

WashedAshore.org

 

This whale tail statue really shows off just how big the whale is!

 

WashedAshore.org

 

Hugo isn’t the only humpback on display! Meet Grace, who has an equally impressive and artistic tail.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

The silvertip shark is showed off through this model made entirely of ocean debris.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

This heartwarming depiction of two penguins will almost make you forgot about the fact that they’re made from trash found in the ocean.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

Edward “swims” with a jellyfish in this colorful ocean display!

 

WashedAshore.org

 

Natasha hopes you think twice about littering as she catches some waves!

 

WashedAshore.org

 

With its flippers outstretched, Brody stands tall over visitors.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

This happy seal sits on a bed of colorful items found deep beneath the ocean’s surface.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

Zorabelle is one of man penguins on display at Washed Ashore’s traveling exhibits.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

Finn looks like it’s practically swimming in this extravagant sculpture.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

Leo is so tall that we couldn’t even capture its whole body in one photo!

 

WashedAshore.org

 

Creamsicle’s tentacles are both impressive and elegant!

 

WashedAshore.org

 

Marigold is a colorful jellyfish made with primarily yellow, orange and white debris.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

This blackberry jellyfish is another massive sculpture made for Washed Ashore’s traveling exhibits.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

This epic salmon swims on a sea of vibrant blue water, complete with white foam on top of the wave it’s swimming on.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

This adorable river otter stands on a bed of rock with flowers and algae peeking out of its crevices.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

Angus is made out of vibrant yellow debris and floats on top of a bed of algae.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

This clownfish stands out against a pastel-colored sea anemone.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

Bella the blue angelfish certainly looks angelic on top of this vibrant coral reef!

 

WashedAshore.org

 

Flip Flop is one of many artworks designed to be displayed on the walls of Washed Ashore’s exhibit spaces.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

Fish Bite is a green and blue artwork displayed on a exhibit space’s wall.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

Stella is a green, white and yellow seahorse with features made from various pieces of ocean debris, including brooms, mops and combs.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

This patriotic sea star is made out of, you guessed it, pieces of red, white and blue ocean trash.

 

WashedAshore.org

 

These incredibly detailed masks almost look like they’re straight out of a museum, but they’re actually straight out of the ocean!

 

Like what you see? You can learn more about the artwork and where they’re visiting next on WashedAshore.org.

 

Related: 

This article was
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MediaFeed.org.

 

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Featured Image Credit: Nopadol Uengbunchoo/iStock.

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