🤖 Robot collects rare minerals from the seafloor

🤖 Robot collects rare minerals from the seafloor

A company has proven that sustainable ocean mining is possible with the world's first hovering robot.

Linn Winge
Linn Winge

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The need for important battery minerals is growing but many of them exist on stones on the ocean floor. Now, a company called Impossible Metals have come up with a method which makes it possible to mine the ocean in a sustainable way - a hovering robot.

Our sea floors are covered in “polymetallic nodules” which basically are stones filled with different metals in them. Impossible Metals have recently shown that it’s possible to harvest these stones without dredging with large destructive plows but rather use precision and smart learning. The method is the world's first undersea selective mining robot called the Eureka 1.

These nodules are full of lithium, nickel as well as cobalt and according to Good News Network, they could provide battery manufacturing with a more sustainable supply that doesn’t involve carbon-intensive mining, and avoids the geopolitical difficulties associated with pursuing these minerals in conflict zones or unstable states.

“Our harvesting machines don’t touch the seafloor,” said Renee Grogan, Chief Sustainability Officer and Co-founder GNN. “What we’re designing is a fleet of underwater robotic vehicles. And they are not tethered to the vessel. They don’t make contact with the seabed. They hover above it.”

Once the robot hovers above the seafloor, an AI-powered computer picks up the nodules using a host of horseshoe crab-like grabber arms situated on the underside and feeds them through a hose into a collection chamber. The Eureka 1 dove to a depth of 25 feet and successfully noticed the difference between nodules and ordinary rocks in November this year (2022). The robot also utilized a special “buoyancy compensation engine” to bring the precious stones to the surface.

“This shallow water milestone demonstrates progression of our principles of avoiding serious harm to the seabed by replacing dredging technology with an alternative that prevents biodiversity loss and large sediment plumes” said Oliver Gunasekara, CEO & Co-Founder to GNN.

By 2026, Impossible Metals believes the Eureka 1 could be in large-scale production.

Watch the robot in action: