Monday 17 October 2016

Meet Luigi MIT's Sewer Scouring Robot


Luigi – Sewer Trawling Robot

A sewer-trawling robot has been created by Underworlds, a project from Senseable City Lab of MIT which has been designed in connecting the gold mine of information prowling in the sewer.The robot in question is known as Luigi and up to now, has been deployed underground in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Boston and Kuwait as a part of an experimental program which could be spun out in various cities worldwide.

Scientists are of the belief that on researching fecal matter they would be capable of envisaging the spread of infectious diseases, provide an image of the collective health of the community together with influence policy. The Underground project, launched in 2015, has been bringing experts together from engineering, public health and biology sectors.

Carol Ratti, MIT professor, co-principal investigator and founder of Senseable City Lab had commented that `the name (Underworlds) tends to highlight the rich amount of insights hidden in our cities and in this case in sewage’. Scientists can monitor urban health patterns and diabetes, analyse drug usage as well as identify antibiotic-resistant bacteria, by sampling and interpreting human waste.

Biomarkers in Human Waste – Insight in Infectious Diseases

Co-principal investigator of Underworlds and director of the Alm Lab, Eric Alm had explained that ` we all tend to flush valuable health data in the toilet. Sewers tend to signify an exceptional opportunity where health data from everyone in a community is assembled together.

With the provision of biomarkers in human waste, they are in a position of obtaining some insight regarding infectious diseases like flu strains, which has ultimately made it possible for the scientists to expect and alleviate epidemics. Collection of fecal samples is not really a desirable task.

 Ratti recalls that initially the sampling method had been very `low-tech’ and the same was lowered to a 20-foot pole with a bottle taped to the end of it in a manhole and the sample had been scooped out. Sampling waste by hand was not enjoyable and hence they started developing the robots.

To quicken things up, the team had installed a large pump at street level. He commented that all these methods seemed to be quite messy. It was then that the first automated sewage-scouring robot, Mario had come to the rescue.

Nintendo – First Generation Model

Named after the famous plumber, Nintendo, the first generation model updated the process though was not adequately fast. Then came in Luigi, which has been much more compact and economical wherein the new model has enabled the team to streamline the collection process.

Luigi measuring around 3feet long and 3 inches in diameter comes with a motor, pump together with a filter. In order to get the task done, the remote-controlled robot tends to descend from street level to the waste water and seizes the bacteria by pumping the water through a filtration system.

 On obtaining the samples Luigi tends to return to street level for refining and dispensation. Ratti has stated that usually the examination of sewage is carried out in the treatment plants beyond the cities which tend to lose the precise data owing to the time in transport.

However they are capable of beginning the filtration process of fecal and urinary matter in situ. Moreover accumulating fresh sample seems to be critical since gut bacteria tend to die off as soon as they enter the sewer system.

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