Robotic Fish

Oil travels thousands of miles to reach it’s final destination whether that is our vehicles, our products or our food. It is drilled in various places around the world and due to the vast amount of area that oil is moved around many different ecosystems are affected.

Researchers at Northwestern have created a robot that have fish like qualities. This robot moves like a fish which makes it very mobile but it is also is very stable. This is a new breakthrough in robotic technology as there usually is a tradeoff between mobility or stability.

The research hope that with this new technology it will be easier to monitor oil spills and fix oil rigs. One of the creators mentions how during the BP oil spill some of the robots used were not as mobile and so the process of capping the oil well heads took a lot longer and really delayed the process.

This robot was created through biomimicry of the “electric black ghost knifefish of the Amazon basin.”

knifefish

This fish was selected because of it’s ability to sense things with the use of a self-generated electric field. It is also able to swim in any direction due to it’s long fin on it’s underside.

Including these qualities on a robot really adds mobility as the fin design lets the fish move in different directions quicklier than past designs. The addition of an electric-field generation will be helpful for the robot as the goal is that it will be working in deep sea where there is often little to no lighting.

The researchers are still working on different prototypes but they have high hopes for their invention.

Here’s a short video of the researcher explaining how his robot works:

 

Oil Spoils the World

The United States on it’s own consumes 18.55 million barrels of oil. This is more than any other country in the world. To fulfill our oil needs not only do we drill for oil on our own land but we also import a lot of oil from other countries, some of these across oceans. The US is not the only country though that uses oil, as oil is used worldwide. The global market of oil along with offshore drilling allows for the possible risk of an oil spill. Oil spills are harmful to the environment destroying ecosystems and to the economy as remediation of the area has to be paid for and the local businesses are negatively impacted. 

The first oil well was drilled in Titusville, Pennsylvania in 1859. From then on more wells have been dug and the risk of an oil spill occurring has increased. Oil spills can happen for various reasons and can happen at any stage of getting the oil. It call also happen if a rig is damaged or the boats carrying the oil get in some sort of accident. 

Offshore drilling causes oil spills in the ocean and can travel quickly depending on the type of oil that was released. Offshore drilling is also controversial because it brings up other chemicals from the earth polluting the water. The use of seismic waves to locate oil disorients aquatic life causing devastating events like beached whales. At the same time with new technology offshore drilling is not as dangerous and less oil has been spilt recently than in the past.  

All of the drilling and transportation of oil can cause problems if there are spills and so various technologies have been created to deal with this problem. The first method used is to contain the oil to limit the spread. This is known as mechanical containment or recovery. There are also various chemical and biological methods such as using dispersants, chalk sponges or peat moss. Other methods include washing the soil or using skimmers to collect the oil.

The newest method is to create a virtual wall to create an invisible barrier to prevent oil spills from spreading. This new technology is being developed by the University of Missouri. It was created to help research study oil on a microscopic level but can be expanded to larger areas. This barrier would keep the oil in a predetermined area making it a lot easier to manage. This barrier works because it repels the oil.  Researchers hope that this technology can eventually be used to transport oil without any spills.