A gelatinous robot capable of operating in abyssal pits has been developed by a group of Chinese researchers from the Zhejiang Lab and the Zhejiang University (ZJU) X Mechanics Center.
To conceive the robot, capable of operating at depths of ten thousand meters below the surface, they have been inspired by the snail fish , an animal that is capable of surviving a pressure of almost 100 MPa thanks to its structure: bones distributed in tiny parts of her soft jelly-like body.
A robot snail fish
This new self-propelled squishy robot is shaped like a fish, with a length of 22 centimeters and a wingspan of 28 centimeters. Hard components, including control circuits and batteries, are distributed throughout the gelatinous body of the robot .
Thanks to this mix of hard and soft components, as well as a new dielectric elastomer actuator that operates in cold, high-pressure deep-sea environments, the new robot can withstand deep-sea hydrostatic pressure.
As Li Guorui , first author of the article, as well as a senior researcher at the ZJ Lab’s intelligent robot research center, explains:
Compared with traditional high pressure resistant deep diving equipment, the deep sea soft robot was developed with completely new technologies, which are expected to significantly reduce the difficulty and cost of deep sea exploration.
In December 2019, the robot made a constant flapping motion at a depth of 10,900 meters in the Mariana Trench.