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Can these robot fish created by Chinese researchers aid in ocean conservation?

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Researchers in China have developed tiny robot fish that consume microplastics as a novel method for combating ocean pollution.

According to a team of Chinese scientists from Sichuan University in southwestern China, these bots are already capable of sucking up microplastics in shallow water despite being only 1.3 centimeters in size and being soft to the touch.

Microplastics are the minute particles that break off from larger plastic items, such as bottles or synthetic clothing, and are found virtually everywhere on Earth, posing a threat to the environment and the health of humans and animals.

The microscopic particles have been detected in the food we eat and the water we drink, as well as in human blood, lungs, and even unborn fetuses.

Wang Yuyan, one of the researchers who developed the robot, stated that scientists in China hope the robot fish will be able to collect microplastics beneath the surface of the water and provide real-time analysis of marine pollution.

“We created a miniaturized lightweight robot. It can be utilized in a variety of ways, such as in biomedical or hazardous operations, such as a small robot that can be localized to a specific area of the body in order to assist in the elimination of a disease.

Light irradiates the black robot fish, allowing it to flap its fins and wiggle its body.

Using the light, scientists can prevent the fish from colliding with other animals or even ships.

If it is consumed by other fish, it can be digested without harm because it is made of biocompatible polyurethane, said Wang.

Even when damaged, the fish is able to absorb pollutants and heal itself. It is capable of swimming up to 2.76 body lengths per second, which is faster than the majority of artificial soft robots.

“We focus primarily on collection. It is similar to a sampling robot and can be utilized repeatedly,” Wang explained.

At the United Nations Ocean Conference held last month, experts and environmental activists warned that plastic pollution posed a growing threat to marine life and humans.

Studies indicate that 11 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean each year, and if production and use of disposable containers are not reduced, that number could triple by 2040.

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