These Jellyfish Inspired Robots Are Exploring the Ocean?
Asia/ Digital/ Updates

Jellyfish Inspired Robots to Uncover Secrets of the Deep Blue

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A jellyfish’s life is spent doing four of the following: swimming, stinging, feeding, and breeding. These seemingly uncomplicated organisms can effortlessly navigate the ocean's depths, a feat that eludes even the most talented of humans.

Imagine if we could harness the potential of jellyfish to explore the oceans and relay their findings back to us. CalTech researchers are pioneering a remarkable innovation that could revolutionize ocean exploration and climate research: biohybrid robotic jellyfish.

These ocean-going cyborgs combine electronics and prosthetic enhancements with the remarkable swimming abilities of jellyfish, enabling them to journey into the depths of the ocean and provide valuable insights into Earth's changing climate.

The research, published in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, is led by John Dabiri, a professor at Caltech. Inspired by the natural efficiency of jellyfish in navigating water, Dabiri's team sought to leverage their abilities to create robotic data-gatherers. By augmenting jellyfish with electronics and a streamlined prosthetic "hat," the researchers aim to enhance their swimming capabilities and enable them to carry a small payload.

The primary objective of this project is to collect crucial information about temperature, salinity, and oxygen levels in the oceans, all of which play a significant role in Earth's climate dynamics. Despite the ocean's critical impact on our planet's climate, there is still much to be explored, particularly in the depths beyond the surface.

How do these robots work?

Previous experiments involved implanting jellyfish with an electronic pacemaker, which allowed researchers to control their swimming speed. Notably, when jellyfish swam faster than their usual leisurely pace, they became even more efficient.

Building upon this foundation, the research team introduced a 3D-printed forebody, resembling a streamlined hat, to further improve the jellyfish's swimming performance. This forebody not only reduces drag but also provides a platform for sensors and other electronics.

To assess the swimming capabilities of these augmented jellyfish, a massive vertical aquarium was constructed within Caltech's Guggenheim Laboratory. Designed to simulate oceanic conditions, this three-story tank enables researchers to gather data on the jellyfish's journey from the surface to several thousand meters below

What can we learn about the ocean from these jellyfish robots?

The results of swim tests conducted in the tank were astounding. The biohybrid jellyfish, equipped with the swimming pacemaker and streamlined forebody, exhibited the ability to swim up to 4.5 times faster than their natural counterparts while carrying a payload.

What's more, the cost of each biohybrid jellyfish is approximately US$20, making them an economically attractive alternative to expensive research vessels, which can cost over US$50,000 per day to operate.

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