Robotic Collection System
Impossible Metals began work on its engineering architecture in 2020, with first patents filed in 2021. In 2021 we also closed our first funding round, enabling us to begin working on Proof of Concept for both deep sea polymetallic nodule harvesting and bio-extraction technologies. Our first autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) called ‘Eureka 1’ successfully completed its Proof of Concept trial by selectively harvesting rocks in an underwater environment in December 2022.
Impossible Metals is developing proof-of-concept engineering for selective harvesting of deep sea polymetallic nodules. An AUV robotics fleet is being developed using “pick and place” manipulator technology to harvest nodules individually, minimizing disturbance of the sediment and seafloor ecosystems. Image-sensing technology will identify megafauna present on the nodules and leave those nodules untouched, preserving nodule-dependent fauna. The major advantages of this system include:
- Low environmental impacts – avoidance of nodule fauna, no significant plume, no return water, no impact to sediment structure or sediment fauna. Low light and noise pollution.
- Scalable – no single point(s) of failure, ability to start with low production rate and increase over time.
- Cost-effectiveness – While 30+ year old dredging technology has high CAPEX/OPEX with 9 year payback time, our autonomous fleet can pay back the capital in 3 years for the same rate of production.
Development Progress on Proof of Concept
TIME Magazine interview with Impossible Metals
The AUV collects nodules individually using multiple high speed manipulators, staying buoyant above the seafloor.
The custom robotic arm and vision system are tested for fast nodule collection.
The underwater vision system is tested in a tank in the robotics lab.