Scientists at Polymer Research Institute of Sichuan University have invented tiny, self-propelled robot fish that can be programmed to remove free-floating microplastics from the sea by latching onto and absorbing them into its self-healing body. Inspired by nacre, commonly referred to as mother of pearl, researchers set out to create a similar sea-worthy material. They did so by “layering various microscopic sheets of molecules according to nacre’s specific chemical gradient,” making the fish “stretchy, flexible to twist and even able to pull up to 5kg in weight.” The dyes, heavy metals and antibiotics in microplastics possess “strong chemical bonds and electrostatic interactions” with materials the fish are made from. This kind of nanotechnology, the scientists believe, can be scaled to make an impact in the battle against microplastics in our oceans. Read more at The Guardian.
Image courtesy of The Guardian, adapted from Nano Letters 2022