Recycling is a wonderful thing on paper at least. Taking waste and then converting it into new usable material is more efficient generally than digging up more raw materials. Unfortunately, sorting this waste material is a very labor-intensive process. The world suddenly is finding it difficult to find anywhere to accept its waste for reprocessing with China implementing bans on waste import. MIT’s CSAIL group have developed a recycling robot in an attempt to help solve this problem.
The robot is designed with an aim to reduce the reliance on human sorters and hence improve the viability of recycling operations. This is achieved through a novel approach of using the special actuators that sort by material conductivity and stiffness. The actuators are known as handed shearing auxetics . This is a type of actuator that expands in width when stretched. They can grip a variety of objects without having to worry about orientation or grip strength like conventional rigid grippers, by having two of these oppose each other. Their are pressure sensors to determine how much a material squishes. There is also a capacitive sensor to determine conductivity, which makes it possible to sort materials into plastic, paper and metal bins.
MIT’s CSAIL is a hotbed of interesting projects, with development starting from visual microphones to camoflauge for image recognition systems.