Solar-power ‘Seaswarm’ robots to clean up Gulf oil spill within 30 days

28 08 2010

Scientists may bring a group of solar-powered robots to mop up the Gulf oil spill within 30 days. The Seaswarm robots are being developed by MIT professor Francesco Stellacci.

Researchers believe that a Seaswarm of between 5000 and 10000 self-directed robots with non-stop working could cover a Gulf-sized surface area within one month.

Biderman said, “We say these vehicles are autonomous because they provide their own energy, propel themselves along the surface of the ocean and therefore we don’t need humans to collect the oil.”

The prototype of Seaswarm robot is 16 feet long and 7 feet wide having the weight of 35 pounds. Two square solar boards at the head shove the robot along the water’s surface. When it moves, a thin and flexible conveyor belt covered by oil-absorbing nanofabric revolves to selectively swab oil.

In accordance to the lab, one robot can run for weeks on only 100 watts having a capacity to remove several gallons per hour. They are also equipped with wireless communications to communicate with other robots.  Humans can also operate one robot using a remote control, if required.

Ron Kendall at Texas Tech University said, “Robotic strategies are intriguing, and they create further opportunity to consider responses in the future.”

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