Envirobot, robotic eel to track source of water pollution

A robotic eel called Envirobot is designed to track the source of water pollution. Researchers at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) along with other agencies developed robotic eels to swim in contaminated water to find sources of pollution. Water drone robot equipped sensors to be controlled remotely and able to produce conductivity map and measure water temperature.

Tinuku Envirobot, robotic eel to track source of water pollution

The EPFL researchers as part of an ambitious project funded by the Swiss NanoTera Program have developed water robots to detect sources of water pollution. The 1.5-meter long envirobot equipped with chemical, physical, biological sensors and moves like an eel, without stirring mud or disturbing water life.

This robot is regularly tested on Lake Geneva which involves simulating water pollution by spreading salt to a small area offshore that thus alters the conductivity of water. The researchers launched robot to swim in contaminated areas and successfully mapped the conductivity variations and produced a temperature map.

"Many advantages to using swimming robots, they perform measurements and transmit data in real-time, much faster than the measuring stations installed around the lake," said Auke Ijspeert, head of Bioobobics EPFL Laboratory (BioRob).

"Conventional propeller-based robots tend to get trapped in algae while moving, while Envirobot produces less wake, so they do not spread the pollutants at all, following the programmed track and independently making own decisions to track sources of pollution," Ijspeert said.

The robot consists of many modules that each contain small electric motor to change the curvature. The modular design allows the engineers to change the composition and vary the length as needed. Some modules contain conductivity and temperature sensors.

"Robots are easily separated and carried away, then reassembled to start testing," said Behzad Bayat, BioRob researcher.

Tinuku.com Envirobot, robotic eel to track source of water pollution

The small rooms contain biological sensors that accommodate bacteria, small crustaceans or fish cells. The sensor works by observing how the organism reacts when connected with water to provide an indication of whether there are certain key pollutants and water toxicities in general.

"For example, we develop bacteria that produce light when exposed to very low mercury concentrations. We detect these changes using luminometer and transmit data in form of electrical signals," said Jan Roelof van der Meer, Project Coordinator and Head of the Department of Fundamental Microbiology at University of Lausanne.