Print 13 comment(s) - last by DiscoWade.. on May 3 at 1:30 PM

"Ecobot" will be soft and decomposable automaton

Remember the scene from The Wizard of Oz where the Wicked Witch of the West melted into a pile of goo when exposed to water?  Now ask yourself -- "How much more awesome would that scene have been if it was a robot instead of the Wicked Witch?"

That's sort of the idea behind a British researcher's $320K project.  Dr Jonathan Rossiter, Senior Lecturer in the University of Bristol’s Department of Engineering Mathematics and a member of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), scored [press release] the rich £200,000 from the Leverhulme Trust for proposing "A robot that decomposes: towards biodegradable robotic organisms."

Most robots are made out of manmade materials like petroleum-based plastics, rubber, and smelted metals -- not exactly the most environmentally friendly of creatures when their rusty joints are laid to rest.

Wicked Witch melting
Soon robots will be able to melt away just like the Wicked Witch (albeit over a slightly longer period of decomposition). [Image Source: Movie Mobsters]

The BRL is designing a special robot called "Ecobot" which is soft and decomposable.  The robot will likely be made soft plant textiles and bioplastics, allowing it to be digested by microorganisms and melt away when its objectives are complete.

Dr. Rossiter cheers, "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."

He says this should allow many more robots to be deployed worldwide to fill new tasks. And that's a good thing (well, in theory at least assuming they don't turn on us).

Source: University of Bristol

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By ramuman on 5/2/2012 8:22:18 PM , Rating: 5
The CIA probably wishes their drones had this capability.

By ritualm on 5/2/2012 10:11:25 PM , Rating: 1
They need self-destruct a lot more than bio-decomposition. The last thing the CIA wants is to have one of their drones skimmed bare of its onboard tech in places like Iran and Pakistan.

By Samus on 5/3/2012 1:35:23 AM , Rating: 2
Self-destruction requires an explosive. Explosive devices flown over the wrong airspace, particularely Iran, can be considered an Act of War.

By corduroygt on 5/3/2012 2:14:01 AM , Rating: 2
The key components are really the electronics, and it doesn't take much of a charge to fry them. Just destroying them would be an acceptable option.

By Reclaimer77 on 5/3/2012 11:15:33 AM , Rating: 2
Explosive devices flown over the wrong airspace, particularely Iran, can be considered an Act of War.

It doesn't have to be explosive. Just incendiary.

However such systems aren't in place because of weight concerns most likely.

Not as awesome as a Robot Witch!
By Azethoth on 5/2/2012 11:30:11 PM , Rating: 2
Note that the water test for witches would work on the Robot Witch because it would sink like a rock.

RE: Not as awesome as a Robot Witch!
By Bad-Karma on 5/3/2012 1:38:58 AM , Rating: 3
We all know that witches are made of wood, which floats, as do very small rocks.....!

RE: Not as awesome as a Robot Witch!
By Digimonkey on 5/3/2012 8:13:24 AM , Rating: 2
and churches

By DiscoWade on 5/3/2012 1:30:52 PM , Rating: 2
and ducks

This has nothing to do with protecting nature
By Schrag4 on 5/3/2012 9:12:16 AM , Rating: 5
A few thousand years after we're gone from this planet, nature will not care about anything made from "petroleum-based plastics, rubber, and smelted metals." Even our great skyscrapers will eventually be turned to rubble. They may last a long time from a human's perspective, but only a very short blip from the perspective of Earth's history. It's funny how environmentalists run around crying about how fragile nature is, and that we're destroying it. As humans, we have to work very hard at protecting ourselves and our creations from nature. From nature's perspective, as soon as we're gone, all evidence of our existence will disintegrate relatively quickly.

By kattanna on 5/3/2012 12:32:53 PM , Rating: 3
so very true..

re-read the article and you will see where they dont even plan on re-using their creations. why? is recycling bad now too? No, instead we will continue to make single use items meant to be thrown away.

how entirely wasteful

Can I get some?
By Dr of crap on 5/3/2012 8:17:03 AM , Rating: 2
I'd like a grant to see how long $500,000 would last as I spent it down?
It would give insight to others!

I could even invest some and make extra! I think it's a great idea for a govt grant!

By OCedHrt on 5/3/2012 11:50:41 AM , Rating: 2
I thought they were going to build Wall-e.

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