The first biodegradable seed robot capable of changing shape with moisture

The first biodegradable seed robot capable of changing shape with moisture

‌I-Seed is the name of the first biodegradable artificial seed in the world capable of exploring the soil independently, without the need for power or batteries. It has conquered the cover of Advanced Science, one of the best-known scientific journals in the sector, because it represents the maximum expression of the European project of the same name, which aims to develop innovative robots capable of acting as environmental sensors. They can monitor soil health, the presence of pollutants like mercury, and even CO2 levels, air temperature and humidity. I-Seed is the result of the work of Professor Barbara Mazzolai’s team from the Bioinspired Soft Robotics laboratories of the IIT-Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa and the University of Trento. This artificial seed is inspired by the structure of the seed of a geranium of South African origins, the Pelargonium appendiculatum, of which it replicates the ability to change shape based on the humidity variations in the environment, and is the result of the application of innovative techniques of 3D printing and electrospinning, combined with materials ranging from cellulose nanocrystals to biodegradable thermoplastic polymers. In practice, when the right environmental conditions occur, the seeds detach from the plant, change shape in relation to the hygroscopic properties of the materials they are made of and move independently to explore and penetrate the soil, thus increasing the chances of germination. “These biodegradable and autonomous robots from an energy point of view will be used as wireless and battery-free tools for the exploration and monitoring of the surface soil. Especially in remote areas where monitoring data are not available”, explains Luca Cecchini, PhD student of IIT and first author of the study. Edited by Dario D’Elia (video: Italian Institute of Technology – IIT) Italian Institute of Technology (IIT)

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