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February 10, 2015 AT 4:00 am

Plant Roots Mimicked To Develop Soil-Monitoring Robots #Biomimicry

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The PLANTOID project is trying to develop intelligent robots that mimic plant roots. via envirotech

What is the PLANTOID project? Conducted at the Center for Micro-BioRobotics at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), PLANTOID is a 36-month research project with the goal of developing intelligent and innovative robotic technologies which mimic the roots of plants. The project’s two major goals are to mimic and manufacture the principles that enable plant roots to explore and adapt to underground environments, and to formulate scientifically testable hypotheses and models of some unexplored characteristics of plant roots. The project researchers – a team of engineers, plant biologists, and computer scientists – are specifically interested in the way in which roots grow and respond to changes in the environment, their energy-efficient movements, and their proficiency in infiltrating soil at any angle. What are the results of the PLANTOID project so far? To date, the project has resulted in two root-like robotic instruments. The first embodying artificial growth and penetrating the soil by an additive process of material; the second incorporating the bending capabilities of roots in three directions, with a sensory system to measure temperature, touch, gravity, and humidity, and the required electronics for sensor conditioning and actuation control. The robotic roots are fitted to a trunk which contains a communicative micro-controller main board, and a system of artificial leaves that respond like real plants to changes in environmental conditions. The next step of the project is to integrate a number of plant functions into a single robotic root, and to develop new flexible robots inspired by plantlife that are capable of growth by adding new materials. The project researchers anticipate that these robotic plants will be used worldwide and even on other planets to monitor soil and detect mineral deposits or contaminated areas. For more information on this topic, take a look at why soil contamination happens or how contaminated soil effects the Environment. The robots might even be incorporated in medical and surgical practices, for instance as flexible endoscopes capable of steering and growing within delicate human organs.

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