Glowing Squid Robot Can Explore The Ocean Without Harming Sea Creatures

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The squid-like robot can navigate oceans without harming coral and fish (Credit: University of California, San Diego)

Soft robots, which can move around the ocean without harming sea life, are ideal for underwater exploration. However, they are rarely deployed because they are extremely slow and have a hard time maneuvering through the water. But that may change soon thanks to an innovative, self-propelling soft robot created by researchers at the University of California, San Diego.

For their design, the team, which included roboticists and experts in computer simulations and experimental fluid dynamics, drew inspiration from one of nature's fastest and most versatile swimmers — squids. The cephalopods use their strong muscles to draw in water and rapidly eject it through a siphon. By creating jets of water, they are able to move forward at rapid speeds.

The recently-developed robot, which resembles a paper lantern, was primarily built using soft materials, such as acrylic polymers. Its flexible ribs are attached to a circular plate at both ends. An adjustable nozzle fitted on one side helps draw in and release water each time the robot contracts. The resulting jets of water enable it to propel forward, similar to a squid. The other plate holds a waterproof compartment that can house a camera or other sensor, to record data. The bot also has its own power source, allowing it to float autonomously for long periods of time.

“Essentially, we recreated all the key features that squids use for high-speed swimming. This is the first untethered robot that can generate jet pulses for rapid locomotion like the squid and can achieve these jet pulses by changing its body shape, which improves swimming efficiency,” said Professor Michael T. Tolley, co-author of the study published in the journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics on October 5, 2020.

Though the squid robot has not been tested in open waters, it successfully weaved around coral and fish in a large tank in the UC San Diego Birch Aquarium. What's more, the bot clocked an impressive speed of 18 to 32 centimeters per second, or about half a mile per hour. Though nowhere close to real squids, which travel between 23 and 25 miles per hour, it is faster than most other soft robots.

“After we were able to optimize the design of the robot so that it would swim in a tank in the lab, it was especially exciting to see that the robot was able to successfully swim in a large aquarium among coral and fish, demonstrating its feasibility for real-world applications,” said Caleb Christianson, who led the study as part of his Ph.D thesis.

Resources: jacobsschool.ucsd.edu, futurism.com

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211 Comments
  • samantha124
    samantha124Tuesday, June 1, 2021 at 12:20 pm
    That’s very handy
    • 2134567
      2134567Monday, May 24, 2021 at 8:39 pm
      cool
      • myvazihizeci
        myvazihizeciWednesday, May 12, 2021 at 11:15 am
        imagne snorkeling then seeing that thing
        • prinecesspenny
          prinecesspennyMonday, May 10, 2021 at 12:05 pm
          I AGGRE T IS SO PRETTTY!!!!!!
          • hahahadley
            hahahadleyMonday, February 22, 2021 at 7:25 am
            just amazing isnt it
            • hahahadley
              hahahadleyMonday, February 22, 2021 at 7:25 am
              wow
              • hahahadley
                hahahadleyFriday, February 19, 2021 at 7:19 am
                i chose this one to do a project on
                • unicorngurlhb09
                  unicorngurlhb09Friday, February 12, 2021 at 10:19 am
                  wooooow this is soooo cool
                  • hahahadley
                    hahahadleyMonday, February 22, 2021 at 7:16 am
                    i know rite
                  • unicorn87
                    unicorn87Friday, January 29, 2021 at 10:57 am
                    these robot squids are super cool! they even glow!🦑
                    • yeet12345678888
                      yeet12345678888Wednesday, January 13, 2021 at 11:13 am
                      imagine seeing that in a pool
                      • unicorngurlhb09
                        unicorngurlhb09Friday, February 12, 2021 at 10:13 am
                        i would littery pass out
                        • hahahadley
                          hahahadleyMonday, February 22, 2021 at 7:17 am
                          i would want to touch it
                        • skullcrusher11
                          skullcrusher11Monday, January 18, 2021 at 7:24 pm
                          that would be soooooo scary bru, the ocean really freaks me out. Does anyone agree?
                          • hahahadley
                            hahahadleyMonday, February 22, 2021 at 7:18 am
                            i can barilly go in 10 feet deep in the ocean
                            • hahahadley
                              hahahadleyMonday, February 22, 2021 at 7:18 am
                              forgive my spelling
                            • sofiatheboss
                              sofiathebossThursday, January 28, 2021 at 12:13 pm
                              absolutely...It's so scary :(
                            • clapz_ree
                              clapz_reeThursday, January 14, 2021 at 8:28 am
                              That would be funny