A robotic fish that collects microplastics from waterways has been turned from an idea into a working prototype. The design came to life after it won the University of Surrey’s public competition, the Natural Robotics Contest.
The competition, which ran in the summer of 2022, invited the public to submit an idea for a bio-inspired robot that could help the world.
An international jury chose student Eleanor Mackintosh’s robotic fishing concept because it can help reduce the amount of plastic pollution in the water. The winning design was then converted into a working prototype.
Join AS in Valencia!
The heart of technology comes to the heart of the Mediterranean
The robotics panelists and researchers, led by Dr. Robert Siddall, turned Mackintosh’s design into a salmon-sized 3D-printed prototype.
The device, called “Gillbert”, consists of a flooded head unit and a watertight tail unit. Thanks to a series of gills on the sides and a fine mesh in between that can sift particles of about two millimeters, the robotic fish filters the water and keeps the microplastics in its container as it swims.
Gillbert has already been tested in the lab and in local lakes – and it even glows in the dark.
According to Siddallithe team envisions a series of improvements for the robot, with the aim of making it faster, smarter, and able to work autonomously instead of being controlled remotely.
If you want to know more about this plastic sucking robot, you can find the full study hereor watch the video below:
Interestingly, Gillbert’s design is open source and free to download from the contest website. This means that anyone with a 3D printer can make their own microplastic-sucking fish.
But the best thing about the robot is that it shows how public engagement and academic resources have the potential to tap into Europe’s brightest minds and bring innovative ideas to life.
The next Nature Robotics Contest will be announced in the spring of 2023. That means if you have a brilliant idea to help save the planet, you have some time to work it out and stand a chance of making it a reality.