Researchers at The University of Texas at
Dallas and Virginia Tech have created an undersea vehicle inspired by the
common jellyfish that runs on renewable energy and could be used in ocean
rescue and surveillance missions.
In a study published in Smart Materials and Structures, scientists created a robotic jellyfish, dubbed
Robojelly, that feeds off hydrogen and oxygen gases found in water.
“We’ve created an underwater robot that doesn’t
need batteries or electricity,” said Yonas Tadesse, PhD, assistant professor of
mechanical engineering at UT Dallas and lead author of the study. “The only
waste released as it travels is more water.”
Engineers and scientists have increasingly
turned to nature for inspiration when creating new technologies. The simple yet
powerful movement of the moon jellyfish made it an appealing animal to
The Robojelly consists of two bell-like
structures made of silicone that fold like an umbrella. Connecting the umbrella
are muscles that contract to move.
In this study, researchers upgraded the
original, battery-powered Robojelly to be self-powered. They did that through a
combination of high-tech materials, including artificial muscles that contract
These muscles are made of a nickel-titanium
alloy wrapped in carbon nanotubes, coated with platinum and housed in a pipe.
As the mixture of hydrogen and oxygen encounters the platinum, heat and water
vapor are created. That heat causes a contraction that moves the muscles of the
device, pumping out the water and starting the cycle again.
“It could stay underwater and refuel itself
while it is performing surveillance,” Tadesse said.
In addition to military surveillance, Tadesse
said, the device could be used to detect pollutants in water.
Tadesse said the next step would be refining the legs of the devices to move
independently, allowing the Robojelly to travel in more than one direction.