Swimming Robotic Eel Sniffs Out Water Pollution Source

Researchers from EPFL, together with other institutes, have developed a robotic eel that swims through contaminated water to find the source of the pollution. The sensor-equipped robot can be controlled remotely or move on its own. In tests carried out in a small section of Lake Geneva, the robot was able to generate maps of water conductivity and temperature. The robot is made up of numerous modules that each contain a small electric motor for changing curvature, enabling it to move smoothly through the water. The modular design also allows engineers to change its composition and vary its length as needed. Some of the modules contain conductivity and temperature sensors, while others have tiny, sophisticated chambers that fill up with water as the robot swims. These chambers contain miniaturized biological sensors that house either bacteria, small crustaceans, or fish cells. The sensors work by observing how these organisms react when put into contact with the water - thereby giving an indication of whether certain key pollutants are present and of the water toxicity in general.