"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

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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