Oct 3, 2018 | By Thomas

A team of scientists from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and the U.S. Office of Naval Research have built 3D printed robot jellyfish that could one day be used to track and monitor endangered coral reefs in the world’s oceans.

The so-called ‘jellybots’ are modeled on real-life moon jellyfish and can swim through openings narrower than their bodies without risking collision and damage.

Dr Erik Engeberg, from Florida Atlantic University, said: "Studying and monitoring fragile environments, such as coral reefs, has always been challenging for marine researchers."

"Soft robots have great potential to help with this."

"Soft robots based on fish and other marine animals have gained popularity in the research community in the last few years. Jellyfish are excellent candidates because they are very efficient swimmers."

“Their propulsive performance is due to the shape of their bodies, which can produce a combination of vortex, jet propulsion, rowing, and suction-based locomotion.”

The `jellybot´ can squeeze through narrow openings (Soft robots based on the larval moon jellyfish (c) could act as `guardians of the oceans´ say scientists. (Dr Erik Engeberg et al/ PA)

The robots are driven by hydraulic tentacles using a system driven by two impeller pumps. Impeller pumps use centrifugal force to accelerate fluid outwards.

The robotic jellyfish is powered by eight hydraulic tentacles made of silicon. Water from the surrounding environment is used to inflate the jellybot's silicon rubber tentacles to produce a swimming stroke. When the pumps are deactivated, the tentacles' natural flexibility pushes the water back out. This causes a gentle rise and fall in the appendages and a subsequent swimming motion is created.  

Unlike other configurations that use various propulsion mechanisms, FAU’s design eliminates the need for valves, reducing control complexity, space requirements and cost.

The team 3D printed five robot jellyfish, using silicon rubber for the actuators. Each jellyfish had a different level of actuator silicon hardness to test the effects on propulsion efficiency. They also tested the robot’s ability to squeeze through narrow openings, using circular holes cut in a plexiglass plate.

“We found the robots were able to swim through openings narrower than the nominal diameter of the robot,” Engeberg said.

“In the future, we plan to incorporate environmental sensors like sonar into the robot’s control algorithm, along with a navigational algorithm,” he added. “This will enable it to find gaps and determine if it can swim through them.”

Their findings were published in the journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Zee wrote at 10/6/2018 3:21:58 PM:

Nice, but won't they get eaten by natural predators of real jellyfish?

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