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MM: Hair Gives Robots A Human Touch; Sawdust Used To Mop Up Oil Spills

In this episode, using sawdust to soak up oil spills and why giving robots hair could make them more effective.

Using Sawdust To Mop Up Oil Spills

Scientists estimate that the Artic contains around 13 percent of undiscovered oil worldwide, which is why oil and gas companies have been and still are so eager to drill in this controversial locale. And, of course, it’s controversial because of the dangers of oil spills occurring that cause harmful environmental damage and fallout. No one wants a repeat of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion or worse.

In an effort to reduce the damage done by oil spills, researchers have been working on effective oil spill technologies that would work even in the icy waters of the Arctic.

Now, scientists from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory think they might have found one solution: sawdust.

By modifying sawdust by attaching components of vegetable oil, this sawdust is able to not only soak up 5x its weight in oil but also repel water. Plus, this modified sawdust can even stay afloat for up to four months.

So, while no one will likely be able to drill in the Arctic anytime soon, the chances of an oil spill at any time are eminent β€” which makes this latest attempt at oil spill tech all the more attractive and necessary.


Do you think this sawdust could prove effective in containing the worst, short-term effects of a spill? What other oil spill technologies might prove more effective?

Tweet me your thoughts @MnetNews or leave a comment in the section below.

Using Hair To Give Robots A Human Touch

Robots can accomplish many of the tasks humans can β€” often in a fraction of the time β€” but they still lack the innate tactile senses that allow us to sense even the slightest of touches or handle a variety of different objects.

Researchers from China's Harbin Institute of Technology, however, think that one way to combat that issue could be to give robots hair.

Although you might be picturing a humanoid with a wig, the researchers actually hope to mimic the fine, barely visible hairs covering 95 percent of the human body.

Those hairs allow humans to feel everything from an insect landing to a slight breeze, and could allow robots with advanced electronic skins to detect objects with much more nuance.

The electronic skin in the Harbin study was embedded with glass-coated, cobalt-based microwires, which enabled the skin to detect a range of pressures β€” including slip and friction when a robot gripped a plastic block.

Scientists suggested that the technology could eventually be deployed in everything from prosthetic limbs to industrial robots on an assembly line.


Could the addition of wire hairs lead to even more sophisticated robots? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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