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Soap Bubble Pollination

OPEN iScience | 20 Jun 2020

X Yang and E Miyako
Abstract
Natural and artificial flower pollination are critical processes in the life cycle of flowering plants. Declines in the number of global pollinator insects, the heavy labor of conducting artificial pollination manually, and the rising cost of pollen grains are considered to be significant worldwide problems. Here we show that chemically functionalized soap bubbles exhibit effective and convenient delivery of pollen grains to the targeted flowers thanks to their stickiness, softness, high flexibility, and enhancement of pollen activity. By exploring the physicochemical properties of functional soap bubbles, we could prepare mechanically stabilized soap bubbles capable of withstanding the windmills produced by robotic pollination. An unmanned aerial vehicle equipped with a soap bubble maker was autonomously controlled to pollinate flowers. Such technology of automatic intelligent robotic pollination with functional soft materials would lead to innovative agricultural systems that can tackle the global issues of pollination.
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