Meet the Jellyfish Inspired Robot That Could Clean Under the Sea

Roboticists in Germany have developed a robot that could help keep oceans clean.

May 12, 2023
Meet the Jellyfish Inspired Robot That Could Clean Under the Sea | Roboticists in Germany have developed a robot that could help keep oceans clean.

Most of the world is covered in oceans. People depend on the ocean waters for food, for livelihoods, and as a way for goods to be transported across the world. Unfortunately the oceans are polluted from river runoff, industrial waste, microplastics, as well as waste from the ships that traverse the wide blue spaces.

Scientists have been trying to combat the huge mounds of waste that are found in the oceans, especially around coral reefs, according to a news release from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany. Now the institute has developed a jellyfish like robot that could collect waste from the bottom of the ocean.

This innovative robot was part of a study conducted by the institute and published in the journal Science Advances. The study’s co-author Hyeong-Joon Joo from the Robotic Materials Department of Max Planck said in the news release: “70 percent of marine litter is estimated to sink to the seabed. Plastics make up more than 60 percent of this litter, taking hundreds of years to degrade. Therefore, we saw an urgent need to develop a robot to manipulate objects such as litter and transport it upwards. We hope that underwater robots could one day assist in cleaning up our oceans.”

The jellyfish-bot
The robot is around the size of a human hand and has electrohydraulic actuators that act like muscles, reported Echo Watch. These artificial muscles – called HASELs – can contract and expand and this allows the jellyfish-bot to move through the water like an actual jellyfish. But instead of collecting food, the robot collects debris from the ocean floor.

The jellyfish-bot is very quiet so it won’t disrupt marine life and the polymer shell surrounding it is not harmful to fish or people if it were to be torn apart. The scientists are still researching the use of self-healing polymers.

The robots can move 6.1 centimeters per second and trap waste as it goes. The jellyfish-bot can be used alone or with others but two or more robots are required to collect and bring waste up to the surface for recycling.

Still a work in progress
The prototype robots are powered by thin wires so it is not possible to use them in oceans but the team is hoping that wired robots will be a thing of the past, according to the press release. “We aim to develop wireless robots. Luckily, we have achieved the first step towards this goal. We have incorporated all the functional modules like the battery and wireless communication parts so as to enable future wireless manipulation,” Tianlu Wang, a postdoc student in the Physical Intelligence Department at the institute and first author of the study said in the news release.

Someday, there could be a slew of jellyfish-bots working underwater cleaning the oceans and ensuring that these blue spaces can continue to support both human and marine life for generations to come.

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Bonnie has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.