Scientists have come up with a new potential use for both graphene and little robots, suggesting that a fleet of "graphene oxide-based microbots" might one day swim around everywhere, hoovering up all the chemicals we spew into the world.
The full paper, grandly titled Graphene-Based Microbots for Toxic Heavy Metal Removal and Recovery from Water , envisions a future in which little bots are released in the wild to continually filter tiny particles of heavy metals from the water. And they will be programmed to enjoy it.
As for how they work, the paper explains: "The outer layer of graphene oxide captures lead on the surface, and the inner layer of platinum functions as the engine decomposing hydrogen peroxide fuel for self-propulsion, while the middle layer of nickel enables external magnetic control of the microbots."
Better still, they're reusable, once the metal has been sluiced off. That is, they might be reusable, should they ever exist, as it's all currently at the academic PDF of rough ideas stage, waiting for some tech benefactor to give them a few billion to get it all working. [NANO Letters via The Register]