Skip to content
Reading time: 2 minutes
tiny robots grasping a face mask
(Image credit: Science Advances)

A new weapon in the battle against the millions of tons of plastic pollution in the ocean—underwater robots created by University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Engineering experts—captivated the attention at an international summit.

tiny robot
(Image credit: Science Advances)

Each year, a staggering 4.8 to 12.7 million tons of plastic invades our seas. Plastic debris poses a severe threat to marine life since it may lead to the ingestion, suffocation and entanglement of hundreds of marine species, or release toxic chemicals that endanger nearby organisms. At the forefront of helping to clean up our climate, robots offer hope by removing hundreds of tons of plastics and other waste to keep the oceans clean.

Autonomous machines can perform vital monitoring and research tasks—gathering samples of microbial life and filming underwater without disturbing the delicate environment. They provide essential data to better understand marine ecosystems, including coral reef recovery from bleaching or cyclones, marine organism behaviors, and the impact of climate change on the ocean.

The Department of Mechanical Engineering’s newest faculty member, Assistant Professor Tianlu Wang, spoke to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations’ not-for-profit specialized agency for information and communication technology on February 6. The presentation was part of ITU’s Artificial Intelligence for Good Global Summit.

“I hope that my talk helped to inspire change around the world through the potential of new-generation bioinspired soft marine robots in documenting, understanding and preserving marine biodiversity and beyond, working towards the goals for healthy oceans by 2030,” Wang said. “I hope this opportunity can be beneficial to UH since I shared our strengths and ambitions in marine-relevant research and some of my future research vision here.”

Back To Top