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Pollution-detecting robotic fish get to work at Science Museum

Greenwise Staff
24th June 2010
The latest weapon in the fight against water pollution –fully automated robotic fish – are to go on display at the Science Museum.
The life-like, carp-shaped, robots have been recognised by the Science Museum for their advanced technologies, which include chemical sensors to monitor pollution in the water and Wi-Fi technology to transmit information back to base. The robotic fish can function independently, or, as part of a shoal, without the need for remote controls. They can indicate the source and scale of any pollution, such as leaks from vessels in the port or underwater pipelines.

They will be housed at the Science Museum’s new Antenna science news gallery, which opens this Saturday June 26.

Beyond their scientific interest, though, the fish have a serious purpose and are being developed as part of a three-year research project called SHOAL, funded by the European Commission (EC) and co-ordinated by BMT Group Ltd, a UK independent engineering consultancy.

"Currently, monitoring pollution in the sea is cumbersome," said Luke Speller, senior research Scientist at BMT Group. " You have to send divers down to collect water samples, which we then test in a lab. This can take days and needs staff and expensive equipment. Our robotic fish will constantly test for pollution to give instant results without delay."

The1.5 metre-long fish, which cost approximately £20,000 to make, are being developed by the robotics team at the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex.

Professor Huosheng Hu commented: "The robotic fish have been designed to mimic the natural movements of real fish. By copying the way in which fish move, we have produced a highly efficient robot that can manoeuvre easily through the water. The tails mimic the fish’s oscillating (side-to-side) movement, which is more effective than using a propeller. We want these robots to be able to swim for as long as possible before their batteries need recharging, so efficiency is vital."

Each fish will have tiny chemical sensors to detect a range of pollutants and these are being developed by the Tyndall National Institute, based in Ireland.

They will be released into the port of Gijon, northern Spain, by the end of the year for trials.

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