This Robotic Eel Can Hunt For Water Pollution

This Robotic Eel Can Hunt For Water Pollution
Design

The Envirobot robotic eel is equipped with sensors and moves naturally through the surrounding environment

Andrew Conrad
  • 4 october 2017

The Envirobot robo-eel may at first sound like an enemy creature from a Megaman game, but it is, in fact, very real and could help save the environment by tracking water pollution. Researchers from the EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) and several other universities in Switzerland unveiled the serpentine automaton in late July after testing it in Lake Geneva.

Envirobot is about 1.5 meters (almost five feet) long and its customizable modules are covered in chemical, physical and biological sensors that transmit data to a on-shore computer in real time.

“Compared with conventional propeller-driven underwater robots, they are less likely to get stuck in algae or branches as they move around. What’s more, they produce less of a wake, so they don’t disperse pollutants as much,” said Auke Ijspeert, head of EPFL’s Biorobotics Laboratory. “The Envirobot can follow a preprogrammed path, and has also the potential to make its own decisions and independently track down the source of pollution.”

Some of the modules on Envirobot contain tiny organisms that react to different trace elements in the water. So far, only the conductivity and temperature sensors have been tested in Lake Geneva. Eventually, after more lab testing, Envirobot could detect pollutants like pesticides, heavy metals and radioactive waste.

“For example, we developed bacteria that generate light when exposed to very low concentrations of mercury. We can detect those changes using luminometers and then transmit the data in the form of electrical signals,” said Jan Roelof van der Meer, project coordinator and head of the Department of Fundamental Microbiology at the University of Lausanne.

Envirobot Robotic Eel

The Envirobot robo-eel may at first sound like an enemy creature from a Megaman game, but it is, in fact, very real and could help save the environment by tracking water pollution. Researchers from the EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) and several other universities in Switzerland unveiled the serpentine automaton in late July after testing it in Lake Geneva.

+Automotive
+Design
+environment
+Europe
+pollution
+Robotics
+Sustainability
+Sustainability
+switzerland
+technology

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