Scientists are developing a robotic jellyfish which uses the limitless energy resource of sea water to power its movement.
According to the U.S. Navy-backed research, the nicknamed machine ‘Robojelly’ is able to replicate the movement and behavior of a jellyfish — making it an ideal candidate for underwater operations. The fact it runs on hydrogen means that, in theory, it will never run out of energy.
Rhe lead author of the study, Mr Tadesse said:
“To our knowledge, this is the first successful powering of an underwater robot using external hydrogen as a fuel source.”
A jellyfish uses a circular muscle in order to open its bell-shaped body and then rapidly close it, expelling water and propelling the creature in its desired direction. Once it has contracted, the bell-shape reverts back to its former position.
Taking a cue from this, Robojelly’s structure comprises of eight ‘memory shape metal’ alloy segments — a type of material that reverts back to its original shape after transformative movement. These are protected by carbon nanotubes, known for possessing strong electrical conducive properties, and coated with a platinum black powder.
This composition reacts with the oxygen and hydrogen in sea water in order to create heat, which travels down the robot’s synthetic muscles — powering the eight segments in order to contract and therefore propel the machine in water.
In turn, this means the robot can regenerate its fuel source from its surroundings rather than through batteries or another external power source.
Although development is still in its infancy, and the machine can only currently go in one direction as all segments have to be activated at the same time, it is hoped that further developments of Robojelly could eventually assist within underwater rescue operations.
The study has been published in the journal Smart Materials and Structures, through Britain’s Institute of Physics.
See the Robojelly in action:
Image credit: Screenshot / Institute of Physics