University of California San Diego engineers have developed a squid-like robot, called “Squidbot,” capable of swimming without a tether. How does it move? It propels itself by generating jets of water, thanks to its own power source built inside its body. It can also be equipped with various sensor, like a camera, for underwater exploration. The robot itself is made from soft materials, such as acrylic polymer, with a few rigid, 3D printed as well as laser cut parts. Read more for a video of it in-action and additional information.
Soft robotics in underwater exploration is vital to protect fish and coral, which could be damaged by rigid robots. There are just two caveats: they move slowly and have difficulty maneuvering. This robot draws water into its body while storing elastic energy in its skin and flexible ribs. This energy is then released by compressing its body and generating a jet of water to propel itself.
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Essentially, we recreated all the key features that squids use for high-speed swimming. This is the first untethered robot that can generate jet pulses for rapid locomotion like the squid and can achieve these jet pulses by changing its body shape, which improves swimming efficiency,” said Michael T. Tolley, one of the paper’s senior authors and a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UC San Diego.