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Chinese scientists design swimming robot to detect contaminants, pathogens

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-01-11 17:11
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BEIJING -- Chinese scientists have developed a tiny, battery-free and wireless soft swimming robot that can detect contaminants and pathogens in confined spaces.

The study published on Thursday in the journal Science Advances describes the miniaturized mobile electronic system powered with external radio frequency signals.

The arrow-shaped device can sense temperature, and detect and quantify chloride, ammonium and SARS-CoV-2 virus particles in water passing through narrow pipes that are difficult to reach.

Simultaneously, the in-situ measurements can be transmitted, via near-field communication, to a nearby smartphone for readouts, according to the study.

The researchers from City University of Hong Kong, Dalian University of Technology and Beihang University attached magnets and coils to flexible tails that oscillate when an antenna receives electromagnetic frequencies, allowing the device to flap up and down to propel itself forward, like a dolphin.

The team also incorporated specific electrodes to detect chloride and ammonium ions in water with a high degree of accuracy and added an antibody-modified graphene layer onto another electrode to capture SARS-CoV-2 virus particles.

"This wireless smart system demonstrates broad potential for confined-space exploration, ranging from pathogen detection to pollution investigation," said Yu Xinge from City University of Hong Kong, the correspondence author of the paper.

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