At less than 5mm in length, microplastics are very difficult to remove manually . But there may be a more efficient method to eliminate this pollution problem from our oceans: use with bacteria-sized robots.
Researchers at the Prague University of Chemistry and Technology have recently developed self-propelled micro-robots that can swim on top of microplastics and break them down.
Red blood cell size
These red blood cell-sized micro-robots use solar energy to move through water and dismantle the microplastics they encounter.
In a proof of concept, the microbots successfully swam through a maze of channels to efficiently degrade a range of synthetic microplastics:
Overall, this proof-of-concept study using micro-robots with hybrid wireless powers has for the first time demonstrated the potential for efficient degradation of ultra-small plastic particles in complex confined spaces, which may affect microplastic treatment research, with the ultimate goal of reducing microplastics. as an emerging threat to humans and marine ecosystems.
The team still needs to further investigate the potential capabilities and environmental impacts of these bots, but they believe their research could lay the groundwork for a new way to degrade microplastics. Much needed given that microplastics are everywhere, from the Mediterranean seafloor to Mount Everest , and can take hundreds of years to degrade.