Saturday, August 28, 2010

Seaswarm: Oil Spill-Cleaning Robots

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) introduces the Seaswarm robots - an innovation that replaces the work of cleaning oil spills manually. Instead of hiring ships, which costs a lot, a fleet of these robots is enough to filter our seas from the damages caused by oil spills. It uses photovoltaic cells (or commonly known as the solar cells) to power itself and they can also reuse the oil they have collected. They also use the GPS and the Wi-Fi technology for communication so they can work continuously without human support. Once they are out of the cage, they would search for the area where there has been an oil spill and communicate with each other to gather there and start cleaning. Sounds cool, right?

Here are the 3D images of the Seaswarm robots:


And the actual photo of a Seaswarm prototype robot when it was first tested in the Charles River this August 2010 :


So how does the Seaswarm robot filter oil from the water?

Seaswarm uses nanotechnology - a nanofabric capable of absorbing up to 20 times its weight in oil. This technology is an invention of the MIT genius scientists themselves.

If you wonder how it floats on the water, look at the Seaswarm's tail. That tail (or what they call flexible conveyor belt) has a hydrophobic property that enables it to float on the water. 

And one more thing, these robots can stay on the seas for months so imagine just deploying a battalion of these robots whenever there has been an oil spill incident without too much worries and costs.

Advantages:
  • Low cost compared to the hiring of large ships and manpower. 
  • Minimal human support needed. 
  • Finishing the work at a lesser duration thus, 
  • Inflicting less to no damage on marine life. 
  • Executes no pollution when used. 
  • Oil collected can be reused. 
  • A solution to one of the greatest environmental problems we have today. 
Possible disadvantage: People may consider oil-spills as not-so-important incidents anymore. [?]

What do you think?

Seaswarm is a project by the MIT Senseable City Lab.
Photos by Kris Krüg and Andrea Frank.
Article by Loading-Info

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