Friday, March 20, 2015

Biomimetic Ocean Robots

Engineering researchers at the University of Singapore are working on biomimetic ocea robots that not only act like the real aquatic animals, but also have a brain of their own. Biomimetics is the study and development of synthetic systems that mimic the functions of structures of biologically produced substances and materials and biologic processes or mechanisms. These new robots will be able to perform tasks too hazardous for humans to perform. For example, the team could create a group of tiny robotic fish and sea turtles to detect nuclear wastes underwater which would be much too dangerous for a human to do. Researchers at the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department of the University of Singapore are looking towards nature to solve technical challenges. They have created a robotic sea turtle that is smaller and lighter than other underwater robots due to its lack of a ballast system for its diving and sinking functions. However, since it is smaller and lighter it is able to carry bigger payloads, allowing it to perform more complex tasks such as surveillance and water quality monitoring. Being smaller and lighter also increases its energy efficiency. The NUS turtle is also agile and able to turn sharp corners without a loss in speed. It is able to self-charge, eliminating the need for it to return to base for charging. To be able to create this and other life-like biomimetic robots, researchers had to study the functions of real ocean animals such as the energy efficient and maneuverable movements of fish. One of the professors working on the project says he expects to invent robots that are able to perform collaborative missions in three to five years. They also hope to develop robotic fish that are able to respond to external stimuli and make critical decisions to complete a mission.  

Written by: Imari Clement

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