Life On Earth
US Navy's New Toy - Hydrogen Powered Jellyfish
The US Navy has developed a new type of aquatic robot - a hydrogen powered jellyfish. It's main purpose is surveillance along with search and rescue. Being hydrogen powered means it can harvest power from its underwater surroundings and not have to rely on an external power source.
The biggest challenge with recreating an invertebrate in robotic form is that the jellyfish has no skeleton. The researchers at Virginia Tech dealt with this by using nickel-titanium shape memory alloy, which easily contorts and is able to mimic the propultion of a jellyfish. The method used involves a special powder that generates heat whenever it reacts with hydrogen and oxygen. The exothermic reaction causes the alloys to contort and then relax back into place. This mimicking of the contracting and relaxing motions of a jellyfish creates propultion by pushing water out from underneath it.
According to lead researcher Yohas Tadasse and the scientists at Virginia Tech, the robot is only being tested in a water tank indoors with more work having to be done before the big natural waters test.
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