New Robotic Device Catches Delicate Sea Creatures Without Hurting Them

Posted: Jul 21 2018, 8:41am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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New Robotic Device Catches Delicate Sea Creatures Without Hurting Them
The rotary actuated dodecahedron (RAD). Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University

The innovative underwater device involves folding properties.

Scientists have found a new safe way to explore marine life in oceanic water that is otherwise extremely difficult and limited by technology.

Oceans cover 70% of the surface of Earth, but they are still the least explored regions. World oceans are estimated to hold up to a million undiscovered species and many of them are soft-bodied like jellyfish, squid, and octopuses. With existing underwater tools, we could end up damaging or destroying them. A new origami-inspired robotic device, however, can capture these delicate sea creatures without harming them.

"We approach these animals as if they are works of art: would we cut pieces out of the Mona Lisa to study it? No -- we'd use the most innovative tools available. These deep-sea organisms, some being thousands of years old, deserve to be treated with a similar gentleness when we're interacting with them.” David Gruber, a marine biologist from Baruch College, City University of New York said.

The robotic device, named rotary actuated dodecahedron or RAD, has five origami-inspired petals attached to a central point. When a delicate creature like jellyfish comes close to it, the device folds up to safely capture it.

Researchers placed the device on an underwater remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) and tested it in the field at the depths of 1600 to 2,300 feet. During the trial, researchers were able to safely capture squid and jellyfish within their natural habitats and then released them without harm. Moreover, it requires only a single rotary motor to drive this unique structure.

“The RAD sampler design is perfect for the difficult environment of the deep ocean because its controls are very simple, so there are fewer elements that can break. It's also modular, so if something does break, we can simply replace that part and send the sampler back down into the water," said Zhi Ern Teoh from Harvard University's Wyss Institute, who applied folding properties to create the underwater robotic device.

“This folding design is also well-suited to be used in space, which is similar to the deep ocean in that it's a low-gravity, inhospitable environment that makes operating any device challenging.”

In the future, researchers are hoping to incorporate more features into the device and to further improve its capacity.

David Gruber says. “We’d like to add cameras and sensors to the sampler so that, in the future, we can capture an animal, collect lots of data about it like its size, material properties and even its genome and then let it go, almost like an underwater check-up.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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