It's been about two years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill devastated the Gulf Coast, and we all learned how far behind our cleanup technology really was. Protei, a sailboat that mops up oil, could be the answer needed.
Oil skimming, in which the oil is literally skimmed off the water, has long presented some basic problems. As the weather dictates where the oil spreads, it can be incredibly difficult to even find all of the oil, much less follow it and skim it completely from the water.
Various other technologies were created due to these problems.
MIT project leader Cesar Harada saw these problems when he came to New Orleans following the spill and set about creating Protei, an autonomous sailboat, essentially, that pulls along a large oil-absorbent boom.
The main advantages are that there is no human crew, thus no medical threats, and it can use the wind (much like the oil) to collect said oil.
It's got a bow rudder to make steering possible, even with the attached boom, and a shape-shifting hull similar to a fish's body. This allows for it to fully reach oil that the older, stiffer models cannot.
"Fish and their shape-shifting bodies existed long before humans, so we know we're on the right track," Harada said.
He hopes it can be used to collect other types of pollution in the ocean, such as plastic.