VIDEO: Microbots could remove bacteria from drinking water supplies

Scientists have found a way to engineer tiny robots which can zoom about and clean up contaminated water sources...

Content Dam Ww Online Articles 2017 07 Microbots

LONDON, England - Mention the word microbot and people will immediately think of science fiction films rather than a water treatment technology.

Yet scientists believe they have found a way to engineer tiny robots which can zoom and clean up contaminated water sources.

Reported in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, researchers Diana Vilela, Samuel Sánchez Ordóñez and colleagues set out to see if they could design microbots to remove waterborne bacteria.

The team designed “two-faced” spherical particles to perform the task. One face is made with magnesium, which reacts with water to produce hydrogen bubbles to propel the microbots.

The other face is made out of alternating iron and gold layers topped by silver nanoparticles. Bacteria stick to the gold and are killed by the silver nanoparticles.

Lab testing showed that the particles can motor around in water for 15 to 20 minutes before the magnesium is spent.

Initial data showed they trapped more than 80 percent of E. coli in water spiked with a high concentration of the bacteria. Then, because of the iron’s magnetic properties, the microbots are removed easily with a magnet, without leaving behind any harmful waste in the water.

Researchers claim that adding more of the bots could improve these figures further.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany, the European Research Council and the Max Planck Institute.

Watch how the microbots move about in a video from the Headline Science video below:


Read more

Leak-finding robot inspects pipes from the inside

Microbots could be used to clean up industrial wastewater, reveals German research

Cleaning dirty water with a ‘row-bot’

More in Potable Water