Researchers at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) led by Barbara Mazzolai have developed a seed-inspired soft robot that can be used to monitor soil and air quality and contribute to reforestation.
The ground-breaking development, part of the European project I-Seed, is published in Advanced Science and also features on the cover. The lead author of the research is Luca Cecchini.
Inspired by the seeds of the South African geranium Pelargonium appendiculatum, the robot is biodegradable, changes shape with humidity and needs no batteries or other external power sources.
Created in IIT's Bioinspired Soft Robotics laboratories in collaboration with the University of Trento, it can be used to check for pollutants such as mercury in the soil, or to measure air quality, from CO2 levels to temperature and humidity.
"Our studies start with observing nature, with the goal of mimicking the strategies of living things or their structures and replicating them in robotic technologies with low environmental impact in terms of energy and pollution," said Mazzolai, associate director of Robotics at IIT and director of the Bioinspired Soft Robotics Lab