MAY 07, 2017 8:38 AM PDT

Manta Ray-Like Robot is Both Fast and Soft to the Touch

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Exploring certain parts of the ocean to better understand the wildlife that inhabits them can be troublesome, especially around coral reefs where the structures are very brittle and man-made underwater exploration devices can often damage the delicate living spaces.

On the other hand, researchers from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China have just developed a unique type of manta ray-like robot that’s soft to the touch and operates in a fluid manner as not to disturb surrounding wildlife. It’s discussed in the journal Science Advances.

A birds-eye view of the silicone-bodied manta ray-like robot.

Image Credit: Tiefeng Li/Zhejiang University

No larger than nine inches long and no heavier than around 90 grams, it’s raising all kinds of excitement as it could be used to spy on creatures in their natural habitats, especially in coral reef-like environments. It's the perfect size to fit in tight space and because it's not overly-heavy, it can bump into things without breaking them.

Due to its clear body, soft construction, lack of noisy electronic motors, and ingenious design, it could be nearly invisible to nearby fish, soft enough not to damage the brittle structures that make up our coral reefs, and quiet enough not to scare specimens of interest away.

The silicone body has another good property too; in addition to being soft and environmentally-friendly, it’s also resistant to temperature changes, which means this manta ray robot can be operated in temperatures ranging from 33-165º Fahrenheit. Since the ocean's temperatures vary depending on the depth, this could be a convenient property.

Replacing traditional electronic motors are artificial fin muscles that expand and contract based on small electrical signals that are put out by an internal lithium-ion battery. This battery has a life of around 3 hours, but it also supports an onboard camera.

Related: Beating heart cells to power robotic sea animals

As the battery puts out cyclic voltage, it moves the muscles, which in turn move the clear silicone body similarly to the body of a real manta ray. This allows the manta robot to travel at speeds of up to 6 centimeters per second underwater. While this won’t win you any races with undersea animals, it is the fastest of any robot in its class.

At this point in time, the scientists are considering how they can use this robot for scientific research. It's unknown at this point in time if this particular robot will go on to help other scientists with their underwater research, but it’s likely that the technology behind it will lead to the development of bigger and better robots like it in the future.

Source: Engadget

About the Author
Other
Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
DEC 21, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Solar System Moons: Miranda
Solar System Moons: Miranda
The solar system has over 200 moons and exhibits some unique features, but one stands out as being extra weird. This is ...
JAN 05, 2023
Technology
A new belt device can help better monitor people with heart failure
A new belt device can help better monitor people with heart failure
Heart failure is a condition that refers to the heart’s inability to pump enough oxygenated blood to the body. Acc ...
JAN 27, 2023
Cell & Molecular Biology
Making the Most of Spatial Transcriptomics Data with SPICEMIX
Making the Most of Spatial Transcriptomics Data with SPICEMIX
Cell function and identity depend on when and where genes that are expressed in that cell. The same types of cells have ...
JAN 30, 2023
Technology
Light pollution is making it much harder to see stars
Light pollution is making it much harder to see stars
The night sky is a wondrous thing to behold. It really puts our place in the universe into perspective. It might be unse ...
JAN 22, 2023
Neuroscience
Brain Game Predicts Viral Infection
Brain Game Predicts Viral Infection
A study published in Scientific Reports found a link between viral infection risk and an individual's alertness and ...
FEB 01, 2023
Technology
Personalized brain models may improve surgical epilepsy treatment
Personalized brain models may improve surgical epilepsy treatment
Epilepsy affects an estimated 1.2 million adults in the U.S. alone, an upwards of three and a half million globally. In ...
Loading Comments...