Research project

EU_FIN_I-Seed_NP Distributed Environmental Monitoring Soft Robots (DTA.AD004.361)

Thematic area

Earth system science and environmental technologies

Project area

Osservazione della Terra (DTA.AD004)

Structure responsible for the research project

Institute of Atmospheric pollution Research (IIA)

Project manager

Phone number: 0984493239


I-Seed aims at developing a new generation of self-deployable and biodegradable soft miniaturized robots, inspired by the morphology and dispersion abilities of plant seeds, to perform a low-cost, environmentally responsible, in-situ detection of key environmental parameters in air and topsoil.
Following a bioinspired design, these skills will be implemented into seed-like robots by using multi-functional biodegradable materials and natural morphological features, which endow them with the ability to fly and disperse via natural vector-mediated diffusion in air, or to respond to humidity variations to move on terrain surface and self-penetrate in topsoil. Sensing will be based on diffusion, absorption, and structural changes of parts of the robots made from sensor materials with a chemical transduction mechanism and fluorescence-based optical readout. Recordings of temperature, humidity, CO2 and mercury (Hg2+) will be executed at air-soil interface. Deployment of the I-Seed robots and reading of the acquired measurements will be performed using drones. Seed-drone communication will rely on optical signaling and fluorescence based on Light Detection and Ranging technology (fLiDAR).


I-Seed will focus on three main objectives:
1) Scientific objectives: a focused biological investigation on the morphological and structural features of natural plant seeds relevant for the design of the robots.
2) Technological objectives: (i) to translate biological principles for designing and developing novel environmentally responsible seed-like soft robots; (ii) to advance in-situ sensing technology based on chemical transduction mechanisms; (iii) to develop new models for the motion of soft robotic systems; (iv) to advance remote sensing principles of integrated LiDAR, photogrammetry and georeferencing techniques; (v) to foster the spatial coverage of existing environmental monitoring networks; (vi) to propose solutions for energy saving sensors; (vii) to demonstrate the process between data gathering and knowledge generation for supporting decision-makers assessments.
3) Environmental sustainability and community building: (i) to fill the current gaps in geographical coverage of existing monitoring networks; (ii) to leverage the cross-disciplinary connection of the community of biorobotics and environmental science; (iii) to promote eco-innovation initiatives.

Start date of activity



Sensors, Robots, Mercury

Last update: 09/12/2023