How a robot in deep water can bring enlightenment

"This may look like a picturesque lake but, in fact, it's a flooded mine. There are thousands of these in Europe. Many of them may still have industrial value, but which ones precisely?This sci-fi looking robot may soon be able to answer that question."

Back in the 1960s, a pegmatite mine in central Finland was shut down and flooded. Today, it's a thrilling attraction for scuba divers brave enough to explore its flooded caverns. It's also a test site for this peculiar prototype developed in a European research project UNEXMIN.

Jussi Aaltonon, Mechatronics Engineer at the Tampere University of Technology, said: "We want to survey flooded mines because mines are seldom abandoned because the minerals are depleted, but they're abandoned for economical reasons. So there might be still some minerals of value, or there might be some new minerals which we might find."

The result of an international team effort, this robot has the compact shape of a metallic sphere and is stuffed with high-tech electronics. Sixty centimetres in diameter, it's built to withstand the pressure at 500m deep.

According to Norbert Zajzon, Unexamin Project Coordinator and Associate Professor at the Institute of Mineralogy-Geology, University of Miskolc: "It can spend much more time underwater than a human diver. It can survive for five hours, even at greater depths than what is reachable to divers because it doesn't need human life support systems, only electricity."

This field study will show how well the....

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