Prototype Robot Swarm Could Clean Up Oil Spill in a Month

Illustration for article titled Prototype Robot Swarm Could Clean Up Oil Spill in a Month

This solar-powered fellow is part of a robot group called Seaswarm. He and his buddies are cheap, autonomous, and communicate via GPS and Wi-Fi. And 5,000 of them could theoretically clean up the Gulf oil spill in a month.

The clever MIT folks currently only have a prototype of this robot swarm ready, but it sounds amazing:

Seaswarm, as they call it, basically works like a maxi pad. A patented hydrophobic nanofabric devours as much as 20 times its own weight in oil without collecting water. To capture the oil, the nanofabric's draped over a conveyor belt that's then dispatched on the surface of the ocean like "a rolling carpet," to quote Assaf Biderman, associate director of MIT's Senseable City Lab. The robot's entirely autonomous; it swims along, powered by a pair of solar panels. [...] Unlike traditional skimmers, which are moored to larger vessels and have to return to shore frequently for tune-ups, Seaswarms can work 24/7 for weeks on end.


You can check out more photos of these amazing-sounding robots over at Co.Design. I'll just be here hoping that they're really as great as they sound. [MIT via Co.Design]

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Arggh! there goes a...snake a snake!

From the source:

"Oil is "digested" locally so that Seaswarm does not need to make repeated trips back to shore, which would dramatically slow collection time. "

Does anyone know how this digestion occurs?