Empa measures the state of ecosystems with bio-flight sensors


Dübendorf ZH – Researchers at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (Empa) want to use ultralight flight sensors to study ecosystems. Specially developed bioslides made of degradable materials will modernize and simplify the collection of environmental data.

Research teams at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research(Empa) have developed cost-effective and sustainable bioconductors for collecting environmental data. The aircraft has sensor technology on board and disintegrates into dust when the job is done. At 1.5 grams, the ultra-light robots allow “energy-saving, close-meshed and autonomous” operation, especially in regions that are difficult to access, according to a media release.

The researchers used the Java cucumber alsomitra macro as a model. The Asian liana species can spread its seeds for meters with transparent wings. The researchers have replicated this property for sensor technology. Instead of the seed, a sensor inside the artificial helpers records the environmentally relevant data. Their wingspan of 14 centimeters corresponds to the natural model.

Two Empa laboratories were involved in the development of the bioslider. The Sustainability Robotics Lab plans to use it to monitor the condition and ecological balance of the forest floor. A team from the Cellulose & Wood Materials Laboratory created a polymer film that responds to humidity so that the sensor is protected and activated only at the desired time.

The raw material for the glider is provided by potato starch, wood waste and dyer’s lichen. Comparable to edible paper, the bio-inspired robot can be printed out and shaped into the form of the Java cucumber seed. Another goal is to have completely biodegradable sensor drones measure the environmental impact of climate change and repair buildings. heg