In 2007, chemist Eijiro Miyako created a thick, viscous, sticky gel that could conduct electricity. He hoped that it could be used in batteries or actuators, but the gel didn’t perform as well as he hoped, so he shoved it in a drawer and forgot about it.
Years later during a lab cleanup, Miyako found the gel, and decided to try a new experiment with it, attaching the gel to fibers, and then attaching that long-lasting sticky gel to an off-the-shelf drone—and crashing it into some flowers.
The result is a large robotic pollinator described in the journal Chem. In addition to putting together the remote-controlled pollinating drone, Miyako and colleagues also tested the gel on ants, and found that ants with a small coating of the gel attracted more pollen than ants without.
Miyako’s experiment was inspired by the plight of pollinators like bees around the globe, many…
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