Ren et al/NPG Press

This jellyfish robot can swim, burrow and carry things underwater

Embargoed until: Publicly released:
German engineers have created a "jellyfishbot" a few millimetres in size that can do things like transport objects, burrow, and manipulate the water around its body. The bot is made from a magnetic core connected to eight bendy flaps - when the magnetic field oscillates the flaps contract - creating jellyfish-like movement. They say their bot could be used to help understand how environmental changes affect the survival of baby jellyfish.

Journal/conference: Nature Communications

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-10549-7

Organisation/s: Max Planck Institute, Germany

Funder: Max Planck Society.

Media Release

From: Springer Nature

Engineering: Tiny, jellyfish-inspired multi-functional robots 

An untethered soft robot a few millimetres in size that is inspired by larval jellyfish (scyphomedusae ephyra), and can perform functions including transporting objects and burrowing, is reported this week in Nature Communications. The study shows that the robot can manipulate the water flowing around its body in order to complete a series of tasks.

Swimming robots hold promise in biomedical and environmental applications. However, despite the existence of miniature robotic designs capable of swimming, advanced functionalities, such as complicated object manipulation, are challenging as robot size decreases. This is because of limitations in the size of onboard components.

Metin Sitti and colleagues designed and built a robot a few millimetres in size by connecting a magnetic composite elastomer core (with a diameter of 3mm) to eight bendable lappets (flaps). Upon the application of an oscillating magnetic field, the lappets contract and recover like a swimming jellyfish. In addition to swimming, their jellyfish-like robot can selectively transport beads of different sizes to mimic food catching, burrow into fine beads to escape from ‘predators’ or target objects, mix different fluids, and generate a chemical path in its wake. The authors argue that their robotic design could also be used as a model system to help understand how changes in the environment impact the survival of ephyra jellyfish.

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    Swimming movies of the jellyfish-inspired soft robot. Credit: Metin Setti. You are welcome to embed Nature-branded videos using the embed code. Permission is not provided for Nature-branded videos to be downloaded, edited and preceded or proceeded by advertising and republished in video players on external sites.
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    Selectively transporting beads of two sizes. Credit: Ren et al
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    Burrowing for camouflage and object searching. Credit: Ren et al.
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    Localized mixing from the jellyfishbot. Credit: Ren et al.
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