MEXICO CITY, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- Southeast Mexico's mounting seaweed problem motivated students at the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) to invent a machine to rid the coasts of the unsightly plague, the institute said on Wednesday.
Named Iktan, meaning ingenious in Maya, the native language of the region, the electric vehicle will be able to collect up to a ton and a half of seaweed over three hours or 60 km, the IPN said.
Seaweed has been washing up on Mexican Caribbean shores for months, affecting some 19 beaches in the state of Quintana Roo, home to Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen and other top tourism destinations.
Engineering students Jose Antonio Garfias, Alan Fernando Ruiz and Johan Matias Velasco decided to tackle the problem with their invention, which they say is light, compact and environment friendly to boot.
"It's an electric and sustainable vehicle for collecting and treating macro algae that will be built with recyclable materials and silent motors," said Garfias.
Currently, the Mexican Navy has been entrusted with the task of cleaning up the beaches, which are crucial to the country's tourism industry.
The brown seaweed is not only unattractive, but also a blight since it releases toxic gases, including methane, carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid, that can harm local flora and fauna, such as sea turtles, said Garfias.
Once Iktan is operational, the 500-kg machine will be able to help with the efforts.
The machine is equipped with two electric motors and can reach a speed of up to 20 km per hour.
The navy cleared away some 57,000 tons of seaweed from May to July in Quintana Roo.