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.
There is currently much discussion around the term "platform," which may be preceded by the adjectives "mobile," "wearable," "medical," "healthcare," etc. However, regardless of the platform being discussed, they usually have one key aspect in common: They tend to be wireless. So, why is this one aspect so fairly universal? The answer is convenience.
Everyone has a MEMS story. For most of us it’s probably the airbag that saved our lives or the life of a loved one. Perhaps it’s the tire pressure sensor that alerted us about deflation before we were stranded alone on a dark muddy road.
Bioimimicry is not merely a helpful design tool -- it also encourages designers to think not only about how to solve design problems by imitating nature, but how to make the products, materials, and systems they design more ecologically sound and nature-friendly.
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