Whenever we think of robots, many of us are bound to have reveries of those glimmering metallic contraptions moving around and doing our bidding. However, in this case, some scientists at Virginia Tech from United States have managed to notch it up a level by creating a robot that replicates one of the most ethereally beautiful natural organisms found in our marine eco systems; that is jellyfish.
According to the designers, they chose jellyfish because of its simple yet organized form of swimming action, which can then be aptly mimicked by an artificial mechanism. But, beyond the novelty of form and uniqueness of movement, the ‘Robojelly’ does fulfill one criteria that endows it with green credentials; the whole conception is powered by hydrogen fuel.
In fact, touted as the first successful underwater robot that utilizes external clean hydrogen as a fuel source, the contraption’s delicate movement is intrinsically related to its power generation. For example, the robot maneuvers with the help of embedded circular muscles in the inside of its inverted bowl shaped bell. These muscles contract and relax, thus opening and closing the bell to propel the robot forward, just like a natural jellyfish. To achieve this naturalistic pattern, the scientists have utilized special shape memory alloys for the ‘muscles’, wrapped in carbon nanotubes and coated with platinum black powder. So, when the robot is submerged in water, there is a series of heat producing chemical reactions between the oxygen and hydrogen in water and the platinum on its surface. This generated heat in turn is used by the muscles to be reshaped, thus powering and driving the robot like its biological marine counterpart.
Moreover, from the aforementioned process it can be derived that the contraption doesn’t require any external power source. As a matter of fact, the robot ‘autonomously’ creates its own power while moving through the water.