Monday, September 20, 2021

Chinese researchers develop soft robot for deep-sea exploration

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Scientists from east China’s Zhejiang Province have developed a bionic soft robot in a bid to make deep-water exploration easier and more environmentally friendly.

The research, jointly conducted by a team from Zhejiang University and Chinese research institute Zhejiang Lab, was published in the journal Nature on Thursday.

The fishlike robot can withstand the high pressure of the deep sea with its electronic components decentralised in a gel-like body, a design inspired by a deep-sea snail-fish, researchers said.

“Compared with traditional deep-sea equipment with ‘armour’, the soft robot is light in weight and simple in structure.

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“It can greatly reduce the difficulty and cost of deep-sea exploration,’’ said Li Tiefeng with the Zhejiang University team.

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Moreover, motivated by “artificial muscle”, rather than an electric machine or motor, the robot emits no noise and does little harm to marine creatures as it flaps its fins to swim, he said.

The research team actuated the robot in a field test in the Mariana Trench at a depth of 10,900 meters in 2019, while it completed free swimming at a depth of 3,224 meters last year in the South China Sea.

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Researchers plan to apply key technologies of the bionic soft robot to deep submersibles and develop miniaturised deep-sea equipment with various functions such as communication and detection.


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