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Chinese scientists have developed a robotic fish that swims about collecting microplastics from the water, just like a genuine shark; the tiny robot “wiggles” its body and “flaps” its fins.

From nose to tail, the robotic fish is just half an inch long. It moves by rapidly switching a near-infrared laser on and off at the tail. It was modeled after mother-of-pearl shells and had the potential to rescue the environment.

Robotic fish moves at a rate of soft marine devices 

In tests, the robot moved at a rate of movement for soft marine machines of about three body lengths per second. It attained a speed equal to that of moving phytoplankton. The untethered device moved neighboring polystyrene microplastics continuously by adsorbing them.

Amazingly, the tool can “repair” itself after becoming cut, preserving its capacity to collect debris. It is the best option for detecting microplastics and other contaminants in challenging aquatic settings because of its robustness and quickness.

The authors wrote, “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. Furthermore, the robot can stably absorb pollutants and recover its robustness and functionality even when damaged.”

Microplastics are practically ubiquitous on Earth and, if consumed by animals, can be hazardous to them. Since they tend to lodge into corners and crevices at the bottom of streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans, they are famously challenging to get rid of.

The robotic fish could be key to healthier waters. 

Hydrogels and elastomers, which are commonly utilized for soft robots but easily harmed in water, are used for these devices. Nacre, another name for mother-of-pearl, is robust and flexible. It can be discovered on clamshell interiors. It is composed of layers with a microscopic slope; one side is filled with many calcium carbonate ingredients, while the other is filled with a silk protein filler.

To create a strong and flexible material for their fish, the researchers created a structure similar to this.