Networks of robotic fish that can glide long distances, as well as swim by flapping their tails, are being developed by Michigan State University researchers to explore the Gulf looking for spilled crude oil. (Source: G.L. Kohuth)
Actually, the Wave Gliders' propulsion system mechanically converts wave motion into forward movement, but their instruments are powered by solar energy. So I thought you might have them in mind when making the comment about these robotic fish and energy-harvesting.
Ah yes, the wave gliders run on solar power, I think...and keep themselves afloat in this way. Well at least the energy can be used for the robot itself, which is pretty good. And then if memory serves I believe someone even designed a recharging station in the sea where the gliders can repower. Imagine all of these fishy robots swimming around doing their job in the ocean and then stopping off at the recharge station to refuel by charging up! I don't think the idea is so far fetched.
Elizabeth, that would make a lot of sense. I bet you're thinking of the Wave Glider design, which does exactly that. The energy harvested from such designs is usually only enough to help keep it going, not enough to power much else, unless combined with solar panels.
Those are definitely two of the most interesting things about this robot for sure, Ann. The glide mode is especially interesting. I wonder if there could be an energy harvesting option in which the robot can harvest energy from its own movement?
Aside from the fact that this robot may be able to help clean up oil spills, a worthy cause, I especially liked the fact that it combines two different types of movement to help it navigate through different conditions of water and obstacles in water. That's not intuitively obvious and also not trivial from a mechanical design standpoint.
Prosthetic limbs and other artificial body parts have come a long way in the last 10 to 20 years, and many on the market and under development today can restore nearly the same functions as the human body parts they’re replacing, or even improve them.