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Creating eco-friendly robots

When one thinks of an autonomous robot, one does not usually envision it being created out of paper, plastic, PVC, even cardboard.

Yet, a few researchers are trying to change the way we think about robotics, and argue that its future is dependent on creating clean, eco-friendly machines.

The image of the giant robot from the 1951 film ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ rings in my mind to this day. It was a mammoth machine, with power and capabilities way ahead of ours, even to this day. It’s not a practical design by today’s standards, and certainly won’t be within the next 50 years.

A robot created out of thick iron, aluminum, or a metal-composite just won’t cut it, especially from an economic standpoint. If the ‘bot malfunctions, it most likely will find itself in the scrap heap, its acidic innards rotting for all eternity, or at least for a really long time.

We must find an eco-friendly solution, something decomposable, cheap, and functional enough to replace metal.

Of course, this won’t work in every situation where a metal robot is preferable, such as fire fighting, search & rescue, ocean surveillance, etc. But as a house assistant, city worker, store employee, and more, eco-friendly build materials are a perfect fit.

The ultimate goal is to create a near 100% biodegradable robot, able to think and function autonomously from a human operator.

This is the 2-year endeavor of researchers from the University of Bristol and the University of West England. Dr. Jonathan Rossiter and Dr. Loannis Leropoulos have begun their research into building this robot with a $324,000 grant from the Leverhulme Trust, with high hopes for the project’s success.

“In this project we will take a radical step away from conventional robots and we hope to create a biodegradable robot. Once a biodegradable robot has reached the end of its mission, for example, having performed some environmental cleanup activity following an oil spill, it will decompose into harmless material.” – Dr. Jonathan Rossiter

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