Scientists working with the United States Navy have built a new robotic jellyfish that acts as a submarine. The researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas and Virginia Tech say that "Robojelly" may soon be used on spy missions.
"We've created an underwater robot that doesn't need batteries or electricity," Dr. Yonas Tadesse, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Texas said, according to The Washington Times. "The only waste released as it travels is more water."
"Robojelly" runs on hydrogen and oxygen in the water it flows through. It is made up of a rubber silicone dome that expands and contracts, mimicking the movement of an actual jellyfish. Heat-sensitive wires control its movement; they heat up when in contact with hydrogen and oxygen, pulling on strings inside the dome and causing it to contract and expand.
"The live moon jellyfish, on which Robojelly is modeled, is a stunningly efficient animal. We look at the way it moves, swims. Our goal was to create a robot to replicate these things," Virginia Tech graduate and Robojelly creator Alex Villanueva said in the "Smart Materials and Structures" journal.
The U.S. military is already using drones in the sky; robotic planes are currently flying over Pakistan and other countries. Now, though, "Robojelly" would allow the military to expand its range of exploration and operation by moving to open water. According to the LA Times, the robotic jellyfish are relatively inexpensive to create and could open a new world of opportunity.
"To our knowledge, this is the first successful powering of an underwater robot using external hydrogen as a fuel source. The current design allows the jellyfish to flex its eight ball segments, each operated by a fuel-powered SMA module. This should be sufficient for the jellyfish to lift itself up if all the bell segments are actuated," Tadesse said in "Smart Materials and Structures."
Watch "Robojelly" in action here: