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This robotic fish patrols the ocean, gathering water quality info as it swims

fish robot senses water quality thing
Image used with permission by copyright holder
A robotic fish could soon be patrolling the waters near you, used to monitor water quality by checking pH levels to make sure they fall within normal levels.

The polycarbonate and latex robot is the work of researchers from the Technical University of Madrid and the University of Florence. They hope that it can be used in fish farms, where it will play a valuable role in keeping aquaculture systems at an optimal level.

“We designed a bio-inspired fish robot that is able to swim according to the directives sent in form of chemical messengers,” Giovanna Marrazza, an associate professor of analytical chemistry who worked on the project, told Digital Trends. “The concentration of hydrogen ions in the environment is detected by an electrochemical multi-sensor platform. The acquired signal is then transformed into an electronic signal to be used in robot electronics control.”

These special pH sensors mean that the robot fish can detect and highlight the areas of acidity or pollutant concentration, modifying its autonomous swimming if it senses a change in the water quality that requires it to take a closer look.

While it might sound like a gimmick to shape a robot for fish farms like a fish, however, Marrazza noted that there is a good reason for it. For one thing, the fish shape turns out to be pretty good for swimming (funny how evolution works, huh?). It also minimizes fish stress, which allows it to patrol the water without upsetting the area’s (living) residents. This could be particularly useful if the fish robot is later repurposed for fish-related behavioral studies. It can even use its tail to easily and quickly reveal its welfare and “emotions” to people watching on land.

Marrazza said that, at present, the robot is just a proof-of-concept and not quite ready to roll out into the real world. “It is necessary to continue the research, and we are looking for a source of funding or an entrepreneur who wants to invest in this exciting project,” she said.

You can read a research paper on the project, titled “Bio-inspired fish robot based on chemical sensors,” here.

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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