Robo-fish for pollution check   Leave a comment

Borrowing from nature, a team of MIT researchers have built a school of swimming robo-fish that slip through the water just as gracefully as the real thing, if not quite as fast.
The sleek robotic fish have been designed to maneuver into areas where underwater vehicles cant venture. Fleets of these robots could be used to inspect boats and oil and gas pipes; patrol ports, lakes and rivers; and help detect environmental pollutants. The cheap and robust robo-fish could be released in large numbers for remote sensing and exploration.
Several of these could be deployed, and even if a small per centage make it back, there wouldnt be a terrible capital loss due to their low cost, says Valdivia Y Alvarado, who designed the robo-fish with MIT colleague Kamal Youcef-Toumi .
Robotic fish are not new: In 1994, MIT ocean engineers demonstrated Robotuna, a four-foot-long robotic fish. But while Robotuna had 2,843 parts controlled by six motors, the new robotic fish are powered by a single motor and are made of fewer than 10 individual components. The motor initiates a wave that travels along the fishs flexible body, propelling it forward.
The robo-fish bodies are made from soft polymers. This makes better able to mimic the swimming motion of real fish. These polymers can be used for more than just fish for example, in robotic prosthetic limbs. says Youcef-Toumi .


With motors in their bellies and power cords trailing as they swim, the robo-fish might not be mistaken for the real thing, but they do a pretty good fish impersonation.
Real fish can swim as fast as 10 times their body length per second. So far, the MIT prototypes have achieved one body length per second slower than real fish, but faster than earlier generations of robo-fish .
Current prototypes require 2.5 to 5 watts of power, depending on the robots size. That electricity now comes from an external source, but in the future the researchers hope to power the robots with a small internal battery.
The researchers plan to expand their research to more complex locomotion and test some new prototype robotic salamanders and manta rays.


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