In this robotic century what we should ask ourselves: What happens to robots that are no longer needed? A group of researchers from the IIT (Italian Institute of Technology) is thinking about this issue and is researching different options. They are developing materials based on nanotechnology to allow these machines to decompose at the end of their life.
Most robots are made of non-biodegradable material (mostly plastic and metals), both on the outside and on the inside. The researchers at IIT’s Smart Materials Group saw the solution in food waste. From this they are able to develop a way to create a bioplastic. In the future this material could be used to build the first totally biodegradable robot.
Athanassia Athanassiou, the leader of the Smart Materials Lab, said to Reuters: "We are infusing any material with nano technology. So what we are doing apart from making these new composite materials - smart materials - we're also using them to change the properties of other materials, other existing materials like paper or cotton or different foams; from synthetic foams like polyurethane or forms of cotton. So like this, in all these existing materials we are giving new properties that these materials don't have so we can open up their application range".
They are working on a bioplastic that could be at the same time flexible and hard, so it could be used for both robot ‘skin’ and interior parts. “It will help us to make lighter robots, more efficient, and finally, also recyclable”, says Nikos Tsagarakis, senior researcher at the IIT.
According to Athanassia Athanassiou we shouldn't wait too long before these green robots are going to be developed. "In a few year's time I find it very feasible that all the robot can be biodegradable" she said.