Bus-size robot set to vacuum up valuable metals from the deep sea

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A new species of the sea-anemone-like Relicanthus clings to a sponge stalk on the floor of the Pacific Ocean.Credit: D. J. Amon & C. R. Smith
A new species of the sea-anemone-like Relicanthus clings to a sponge stalk on the floor of the Pacific Ocean.Credit: D. J. Amon & C. R. Smith

Paul Voosen for Science | 14 March 2019

Sometimes the sailors’ myths aren’t far off: The deep ocean really is filled with treasure and creatures most strange. For decades, one treasure—potato-size nodules rich in valuable metals that sit on the dark abyssal floor—has lured big-thinking entrepreneurs, while defying their engineers. But that could change next month with the first deep-sea test of a bus-size machine designed to vacuum up these nodules.

The trial, run by Global Sea Mineral Resources (GSR), a subsidiary of the Belgian dredging giant DEME Group, will take place in the international waters of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ), a nodule-rich area the width of the continental United States between Mexico and Hawaii. The Patania II collector, tethered to a ship more than 4 kilometers overhead, will attempt to suck up these nodules through four vacuums as it mows back and forth along a 400-meter-long strip.

Read the full article here: Bus-size robot set to vacuum up valuable metals from the deep sea.