A team of biomedical engineers and roboticists affiliated with multiple institutions across China has developed a type of small, soft robot that can swim through water and test for contaminants
From a Techxplore report:
In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the team notes that the robot can be powered and controlled using radio waves. The SES is shaped like an arrowhead with a notch cut in the back—the engineers placed a tail in the notch that moves in a similar fashion to a dolphin tail, courtesy of an embedded magnet and coil antenna, allowing for propulsion. The tail is activated by taking advantage of the energy in radio waves.
The robot was also fitted with three sensors, one that could test for and measure chloride levels in the water around it, another that does the same for ammonia, and yet another that can test for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The robot also has a chip for processing information from the sensors and sending signals to a nearby smartphone—the team also developed software that graphically displays the data from the sensors.
Testing of the device in a lab environment showed it worked well when propelled through small, water-filled pipes. The researchers note that in its current form, the robot would only be useful in small, short-distance applications—the robot cannot venture any farther than 4 cm from the radio wave source and 10 cm from the smartphone receiving data transmissions. They plan to continue working on their robot to find ways it can be used in more remote settings.