Move over, Kevin Costner. Seaswarm's oil-eating, ocean-skimming robots sound like the answer the Gulf of Mexico has been waiting for.
From the Seaswarm website:
By autonomously navigating the water’s surface, Seaswarm proposes a new system for ocean-skimming and oil removal. Seaswarm uses a photovoltaic powered conveyor belt made of a thin nanowire mesh to propel itself and collect oil.
The nanomaterial, patented at MIT, can absorb up to 20 times its weight in oil. The flexible conveyor belt softly rolls over the ocean’s surface, absorbing oil while deflecting water because of its hydrophobic properties.
The small Seaswarm robots are designed to work as a fleet, or “swarm,” of vehicles. They communicate their location to each other through GPS and WiFi to create an organized system for collection—enabling themselves to work continuously without human support. Much like the Roomba, a Seaswarm works by detecting the edge of a spill and moving inward until it has removed the oil from a single site. It then joins other vehicles that are still cleaning. The robot “digests” the oil on-site, so it doesn’t have to make repeated trips back to shore.