Researchers at the Sustainability Robotics laboratory in Dübendorf, Switzerland are developing low-cost, sustainable sensors and flying devices that can collect environmental data in an energy-efficient, close-meshed and autonomous manner even in inaccessible areas, so-called bio-gliders. The ingredients: potatoes, some wood waste and a dyer’s lichen.
As Andrea Six reports for the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology in an article published in TechXplore, the paperweight bio-gliders’ task is to monitor the condition of ecosystems, for instance in the forest floor—and crumble to dust when their work is done.
The transport vehicle for the biosensor is a glider whose material consists of conventional potato starch, comparable to edible paper. This means that the glider can simply be printed out and pressed into the shape of the Java cucumber seed. Including the sensor, the glider weighs just 1.5 grams and has a wingspan of 14 centimeters.
Currently, the researchers are going one step further. Their goal is to record the effects of climate change on different habitats using completely biodegradable sensor drones. Such robots will allow for accurate predictions of the state of the environment and appropriate preventative measures, and then decompose into their parent materials in nature.