Chinese researchers in Northwestern Polytechnical University have developed a biomimetic robot in the shape of a manta ray, or devilfish, that can flap its wings and slide underwater, China Daily reported.
As one of the nature’s most efficient swimmers, manta rays possess a unique propulsion mechanism with characteristics such as high propulsion efficiency, high mobility and stability, low noise and large load capacity.
The researchers created the bionic soft robot prototype modeled on the shape and motion of a manta ray, the report said.
The prototype, with a wingspan of 80 cm, is powered by a lithium battery and can swim at a speed of up to 1.85 km/h.
“Our team is also developing prototypes that can dive up to 1,000 meters and work continuously for a month,” said the project leader Pan Guang, also dean of the School of Marine Science and Technology of the university.
Once completed, the robot can be used for performing search operations, observing the ocean environment and conducting submarine scientific investigations, Pan said.
The team will test the robot in lake conditions soon and in the open ocean next year. They also plan to load more sensors for visual and sound detection on the robot for further research.
Soft robots are primarily composed of easily deformable matter that roughly match the elastic properties of biological tissue.
Like an octopus squeezing through a narrow opening, a soft robot must adapt its shape and locomotion strategy for a broad range of tasks and environmental conditions, much the same way living organisms move and adapt to their surroundings.
This emerging class of elastically soft, versatile and biologically inspired machines represents an exciting and highly interdisciplinary area in engineering that could revolutionize the role of robotics.
Meanwhile, researchers at Cornell University’s organic robots lab have built a robo-lionfish powered by hydraulic blood and two heart pumps, according to Chemistry World.
With electrolyte for blood, two peristaltic pumps as hearts and several flow battery stomachs, just like the real thing, the robofish swims by moving its tail and can fan its pectoral fins — though luckily it isn’t venomous like its biological counterpart.
The robot’s soft silicone body takes the shape of a lionfish. Its fins contain thin zinc iodide flow batteries and two pumps cycle electrolyte between different batteries.
The tail moves when fluid is pumped from the fin’s left to its right side and the pectoral fins are pushed out from the body when a reservoir is filled with electrolyte.
The batteries have a theoretical energy density half as great as the lithium ion batteries in a Tesla S – enough for the robofish to swim for almost 37 hours before needing a charge.