Sea Life Of Fondo Marino de Palma de Mallorca
Scientists are developing a robotic octopus that will be able to search the seabed with the same extraordinary dexterity as the real eight-legged cephalopod. With no solid skeleton, the robot would be the world’s first entirely soft robot, say researchers.
The trouble with today’s remote-controlled subs, says researcher Cecilia Laschi of the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa, is that their large hulls and clunky robot arms cannot reach into the nooks and crannies of coral reefs or the rock formations on ocean floors.
This implies they are unable to photograph objects in these places or pick up samples for analysis. And that’s a major minus point for oceanographers hunting for signs of climate change in the oceans and on coral reefs. Since an octopus’s tentacles can bend in all directions and quickly thin and elongate to almost twice their length, they can reach, grasp and manipulate objects in tiny spaces with dexterity. “So we are replicating the muscular structure of an octopus by making a robot with no rigid structure – and that is completely new to robotics,” New Scientist quoted Laschi, as saying. Laschi and colleagues in the UK, Switzerland, Turkey, Greece and Israel are testing artificial muscle technologies that will more accurately mimic tentacles. The team plans to mimic the longitudinal muscles with soft silicone rubber interspersed with a type of electroactive polymer (EAP) called a dielectric elastomer. Apply an electric field to this material and it squeezes the silicone, making it shorter. The study has been published in Biomimetics and Bioinspiration.