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)
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Everyone has had the experience of trying to scrape the last of the peanut butter or mayonnaise from the bottom of a glass jar without getting your hand sticky. Inventor Ron Jidmar thinks he has a solution to all of that nonsense with a flexible jar design that can be squeezed with one hand to lift contents from the bottom to the top of a jar or container, leaving the other hand free to scoop the contents out cleanly.
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