A team of scientists from Sichuan University, located in China’s southwest have developed robotic fish, soft to touch and just 1.3cm in size, that can suck up microplastics in shallow water.

“The aim is to make them collect microplastics beyond the surface, at deeper levels and give information to analyse marine pollution in real time,” said Wang Yuyan, one of the researchers who developed the bot.

“We developed such a lightweight miniaturised robot. It can be used in many ways, for example in biomedical or hazardous operations, such as a small robot that can be localised to a part of your body to help you eliminate some disease.”

The black robot fish is irradiated by light, helping it to flap its fins and wiggle its body. Scientists can control the fish using the light to avoid crashing into other fish or ships.

“If it is accidently eaten by other fish, it can be digested without harm as it is made from polyurethane, which is also biocompatible,” Wang said.

The fish is able to absorb pollutants and heal itself even when it is damaged. It can swim up to 2.76 body lengths per second, faster than most artificial soft robots.

“We are mostly working on a collection (of microplastics). It is like a sampling robot and it can be used repeatedly,” she said.

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