Liquobot: An autonomous solution to underwater microplastics

The Big Idea:

An estimated 80 million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year. The majority of the efforts to clean up ocean plastics focus on surface plastics; however, most lie beneath the surface as microplastics that are no larger than five millimeters. Millions of these pieces pollute oceans, and harm marine life therein. This Great Problems Seminar (GPS) project offered a solution to address the underwater microplastic contamination by proposing a submersible autonomous robot capable of filtering microplastics from the water. Through this process, not only will the amount of plastic pollutants be reduced in these natural systems, these plastics will also be available for recycling into a sustainable, closed-loop process.


Maya Angeles ’23 Robotics Engineering

Noelle Crump ’23 Mechanical Engineering

Katrina Marsden ’23 Mechanical Engineering

Patrick Mejia ’23 Computer Science

Tyler Sanderville ’23 Mechanical Engineering

How it works:

The ballast tank fills with water and submerges the robot to 200m. The pump then pushes contaminated water through the filter, collecting plastics. Once the flow sensor determines the collection is full, it sends a signal to resurface. The ballast tank then fills with air from compressed air tanks and resurfaces the bot. Once the bot signals the crew members, they will replace the filter and refill the compressed air tanks. The bot will recharge using its solar panels and resubmerge.

What’s next:

Contacting potential sponsors; securing funding for the next stage in LiquoBot’s development; creating a family of products for river cleanup, lake/pond cleanup, and ocean cleanup; working with experienced engineers to refine the design further and creating a production-ready draft; and adding features such as internal filter cleaning and plastic storage to expand operating time.

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