The boffins over at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have announced the development of a prototypical robot known as Seaswarm. Costing $20,000 a pop, these will be unveiled to the public officially this Saturday night, and ought to be primed for oil spill cleanup action within a year. The Seaswarm robots resemble a treadmill conveyor belt which has been connected to an ice cooler, where the former will float on the ocean’s surface and turn about, so that it propels the robot forward while lifting oil off the water thanks to a nanomaterial which was specially engineered to attract oil and repel water.
To put it in layman’s terms, this is akin to a carpet rolling on the surface of the water. MIT has dubbed the robot’s conveyer belt material as a “paper towel for oil spills”, where it is able to absorb up to 20 times its weight in oil. All absorbed crude from the ocean’s surface can be burned off on the spot via a built-in heater, or it can be bagged and left on the surface for a pick up operation later on. Said oil can then be reused or recycled. Meant to work in a team of thousands, the Seaswarm will co-ordinate with one another using GPS location data – we wonder whether the motor is powerful enough to combat strong waves when the weather gets rough.