Inspired by organic shapes, a plastic-eating fish was developed. With a 3D printer, anyone can recreate the robo-fish.

Whales are organic filters, they squeeze the water through their baleen and comb out small creatures in the process. This principle could also be used to clean dirt and waste particles from the oceans and bodies of water. That’s exactly what the robotic fish named “Gilbert” can do. The natural shape is no coincidence. The fish won a University of Surrey competition. Robots inspired by animals or plants that help solve the world’s problems were in demand.

Student Eleanor Mackintosh’s robo-fish won the competition. The robot moves like a real fish by flapping its fins. It opens its large mouth to let in water. Then he closes it and squeezes the water out again through the gills. A fine mesh then filters out the particles. The whole fish is only 50 centimeters tall. Sensors measure the turbidity of the water, and the electronics report its movements.

Currently, it can only eat particles 2 millimeters in diameter and is attached to a tether – a wire used to remotely control the unit. “Water pollution, particularly plastic pollution, is a major problem. It’s not just the oceans that are suffering, but rivers, streams, lakes and ponds as well,” Mackintosh said. “My design was focused on the versatility of its function. What creature would be better suited to address the problems of aquatic environments than a fish that lives in them? Fish are adapted to their environment, and gills are an incredible mechanism in nature that specializes in filtering oxygen into the bloodstream – so I based my design on that to create a filter for microplastics.”

open source project

dr Robert Siddall, the initiator of the competition, said: “We do not know where the vast majority of the plastic that enters our waterways ends up. We hope that this robo-fish and its future offspring are the first steps in the right direction, to help us find this plastic and eventually control the pollution problem.” The robot fish’s plans are available online. To recreate it, all you need is a 3D printer and a few standard components. The whole thing is an open source project that can be further developed by anyone interested. The direction is still open. It will only be seen in practice whether the simple wire connection to a floating base will work. At the base you could get the necessary energy from a solar panel. But it is also possible that the robot gets tangled with its leash. Among other things, an autonomous version is to be developed.

Quelle: University of Surrey