VIDEO – An Eel Robot Studies the Depths of the Ocean

The creation does not need any type of motor to be able to swim and performs its task in silence.

An innovative, eel-like robot developed by marine engineers and biologists at the University of California, can swim silently in salt water without an electric motor.

Instead, the robot uses artificial muscles filled with water to propel itself. The 30-centimetre-long robot, which is connected to an electronic board that remains on the surface, is also practically transparent. The team, which includes researchers from UC San Diego and UC Berkeley, details their work in the April 25 issue of Science Robotics.

Researchers say the robot is an important step towards a future in which soft robots can swim in the ocean along with fish and invertebrates without disturbing or damaging them. Currently, most submarine vehicles designed to observe marine life are rigid and submarine and operate with electric motors with noisy propellers.

“Instead of propellers, our robot uses soft artificial muscles to move like an eel underwater without making any sound,” said Caleb Christianson, a student at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.

Salt water has been a key element

A key innovation was the use of salt water in which the robot swims to help generate the electrical forces that propel it. The robot is equipped with cables that apply the voltage to both the salt water that surrounds it and pockets of water within its artificial muscles. Then, the electronic components of the robot emit negative charges in the water just outside the robot and positive charges inside the robot that activate the muscles.

The electric charges cause the muscles to bend, generating the undulating swimming movement of the robot. The charges are located just outside the surface of the robot and carry very little current, so they are safe for nearby marine life.

The use of the environment

“Our biggest breakthrough was the idea of using the environment as part of our design,” said Michael T. Tolley, the corresponding author of the paper and professor of mechanical engineering at UC San Diego’s Jacobs School. “There will be more steps to create an efficient eel robot, practical and without ties, but at this point, we have shown that it is possible,” he added.

The robot was tested inside saltwater tanks filled with jellyfish, corals and fish at the Birch Aquarium, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, and at Tolley’s lab.

 

Source: Diario de Ibiza