Robot Jellyfish Could Be Powered By Seawater

Researchers at Virginia Tech, the University of Texas at Dallas and some other universities are working on the development of robotic jellyfish for a project funded by the US Navy.

Image Credit: Dante Alighieri
Image Credit: Dante Alighieri

The propulsion mechanism for the artificial jellyfish employs hydrogen and oxygen mixed with seawater. A chemical reaction results, which causes material in the robotic jellyfish resembling muscles to contract and push water out of its body. When the water is pushed out, the jellyfish’s body is moved through water. The beauty of this propulsion system is that it doesn’t use anything electrical which would require a conventional power source such as a battery and keeping any circuits, chips or wires completely dry.

This chemical system seems better suited to long-term water travel and durability of the robots, as opposed to ones with an electrical design. These robots use a memory-shape alloy which can change position, but reverts back to the original one afterwards. The only waste created by the movement of the nickel-titanium alloy is water vapor, which is not harmful to the marine environment.

The next step for the Robo Jelly researches is to make their robots be able to move in different directions. Once this ability is implemented, they could be used for environmental monitoring and surveillance. One can imagine pods of them being used at oil drilling sites or for marine field research. For example, some species of sea turtles eat jelly fish, and they could be observed closely for counting the endangered ones. Also, damage to coral reef systems could be documented, without human divers having to do the labor of visual inspections in water where sharks may be present.

Additionally, they could be used by the Navy for information gathering.

2 thoughts on “Robot Jellyfish Could Be Powered By Seawater”

  1. Jeffrey Goodwin

    I could also imagine such devices being used by the Navy as undersea surveillance of submarines.

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