Even though they do not have a skeletal structure, jellyfish are excellent swimmers (illustration).


Bony / SIPA

British scientists have developed a jellyfish-shaped robot, which not only mimics the animal's delicate swimming but also its somewhat soft texture, in particular so that it can explore coral reefs without damaging them.

By better defining how jet-propelled #swimmers such as squids and jellyfish use resonance to sustain their movements, @UoSEngineering researchers built a squid-inspired #robot with a efficiency comparable to its biological counterparts: https://t.co/drylYcEigC pic.twitter.com/F4zsnCN1c3

- Science Robotics (@SciRobotics) January 21, 2021

Eight rubber tentacles

Presented this Wednesday in the scientific journal

Science Robotics

, it imitates the way of moving "of the most efficient swimmers found in nature, such as the blue jellyfish", according to researchers at the universities of Southampton (southern England ) and Edinburgh (Scotland).

The robot, made of a rubber head that surmounts eight tentacles made by a 3D printer, uses a system based on resonance to propel itself, thus becoming "the first submersible to demonstrate its advantages".

A low energy system

It works thanks to a piston which strikes at the junction of the head and the tentacles.

If it strikes at the ideal frequency - that of the natural resonance of the components - this allows the robot to generate large jets of water with very little energy, to propel itself forward and thus be "Ten to fifty times more efficient than typical small propeller-driven underwater vehicles".

"This increased efficiency, coupled with the advantages of the robot's soft and flexible exterior, would make it ideal for operating near sensitive environments such as a coral reef, archaeological sites or even in waters crowded with swimmers," he said. specified in the press release.

Pond tested

The small robot could thus replace divers in many tasks where underwater vehicles are not normally used, for fear of breaking fragile or expensive objects, such as applying substances to corals to heal them.

Already tested in a basin, the robot has not yet been tested in real conditions, in the ocean.

The University of Southampton now wants to use this concept to assemble "a fully maneuverable and autonomous underwater vehicle".


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