Robots That Could Decompose When They’re No Longer Needed

It might be time to start building robot cemeteries

xcaballe (CC licensed)

Scientists at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) are developing materials that could allow robots to decompose at the end of their lives, much like humans, according to Reuters.

Most robots are made of plastic and metal, which are non-biodegradable. But researchers at the the IIT’s Smart Materials Group have developed a way to create a bioplastic out of food waste. This material could eventually be used to make an entirely biodegradable robot.

Athanassia Athanassiou, who leads the Smart Materials Lab at the IIT, says that the bioplastic can be flexible or tough, so it could be used for both robot ‘skin’ and interior robot parts.

“It will help us to make lighter robots, more efficient, and finally, also recyclable,” says Nikos Tsagarakis, senior researcher at the IIT.

A robot capable of decomposition could make certain jobs much simpler. As robotics Professor Jonathan Rossiter at the University of Bristol stated in 2012, “Once a biodegradable robot has reached the end of its mission, for example having performed some environmental cleanup activity following an oil spill, it will decompose into harmless material.”

Athanassiou says that creating a completely biodegradable robot could be possible in a few years.