American Oceans

Biohybrid Robotic Jellyfish Are Being Used To Monitor Ocean Environments

a rendering of a robotic jellyfish

Biohybrid robotic jellyfish represent an innovative approach to unlock the potential of biological systems for advanced robotics applications. By incorporating living organisms, such as jellyfish, with technological components, biohybrid robots aim to bridge the gap between natural biology and artificial systems. This interdisciplinary field combines expertise in biology, sensing, actuation, and control, leveraging the strengths of both living organisms and engineered structures to create efficient and capable robotic systems.

In recent years, the development of biohybrid robotic jellyfish has gained attention as a promising avenue for ocean monitoring and research. Jellyfish serve as a suitable candidate due to their simple anatomical structure and energy-efficient propulsion mechanisms. By attaching microelectronics to living jellyfish, researchers can manipulate and control their movements, thus converting them into biohybrid robots that can be used for various applications in marine environments.

Biohybrid Jellyfish Robotics

a diagram explaining the structure of a biohybrid jellyfish
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Biohybrid robotics aims to create robotic systems that are designed and constructed using elements of living organisms, such as tissues and living cells. In the case of biohybrid robotic jellyfish, researchers are developing designs that incorporate the natural morphological features of the Aurelia aurita, also known as the moon jellyfish. By using the jellyfish’s natural chassis and muscles, researchers are able to create a biohybrid robot that has enhanced swimming speeds and efficient movement.

Soft robotics is a key concept in biohybrid robotic designs, as it focuses on creating robotic systems with the flexibility and adaptability of biological organisms. In the case of biohybrid robotic jellyfish, soft robotics allows for the creation of actuators and sensors that can interact seamlessly with the living jellyfish tissues.

Functionality and Movement

The primary goal of creating biohybrid robotic jellyfish is to enhance their swimming speeds and maneuverability. Researchers found that by inducing muscle contractions in the jellyfish bell, they could control and improve the jellyfish’s swimming. The hydrodynamic model of a biohybrid robotic jellyfish enables it to exhibit directional swimming and respond efficiently to time-dependent input parameters.

Key to this enhanced movement of the biohybrid robot is the development of a swim controller, which allows for precise actuation of the jellyfish’s tissue. The controller ensures that the jellyfish’s muscles contract efficiently, resulting in an increase in swimming speed and improved cost of transport.

Control and Sensing

One of the challenges in biohybrid robotic jellyfish is integrating its control mechanisms and sensing capabilities. To achieve this, researchers incorporate microelectronic systems into the living jellyfish, enabling the robot to be controlled and monitored in real-time. These microelectronics, combined with sensors placed throughout the jellyfish’s body, enable researchers to analyze current and time-dependent input parameters related to swimming and actuation.

By integrating microelectronics and sensors into the jellyfish’s body, the biohybrid robot as a result, exhibits substantially lower power consumption compared to other robotic systems. This integration allows the system to optimally balance between the natural swimming capabilities of the jellyfish and the additional actuation mechanisms, offering a promising approach to the development of more efficient and adaptive robotic systems.

Applications and Challenges

the wires and sensors used to create robotic jellyfish
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Biohybrid robotic jellyfish have the potential to significantly impact our understanding and interaction with the environment, particularly in the realm of ocean monitoring and exploration. These robots can be used to track environmental changes and interact with natural, dynamic ocean environments. For instance, through a combination of field experiments and in situ experiments conducted in the coastal waters of Massachusetts, researchers demonstrated that biohybrid robotic jellyfish could enhance swimming speeds for various tasks.

Despite these promising results, there remain challenges related to energy efficiency and passive energy recapture. Biohybrid robotic jellyfish need to function effectively under power constraints, and researchers are exploring ways to optimize their use of energy.

Biological Insights and Innovations

The development and study of biohybrid robotic jellyfish also offers numerous opportunities for further understanding jellyfish biology. For example, researchers can use these robotic systems to study the relationship between morphological parameters and animal metabolism. This knowledge can be applied to innovate new robotic designs that incorporate features such as damage tolerance, self-healing, and biodegradability.

Technological and Ethical Considerations

While biohybrid robotic jellyfish present numerous opportunities, they also introduce technological and ethical challenges. Laboratory environments often differ greatly from real-world conditions, which can impact the transferability of experimental results. Moreover, there are concerns regarding the use of live animals in the development of biohybrid robotic systems, with implications for animal welfare and ethical considerations.

In order to address these concerns and promote responsible development of biohybrid robots, researchers must work closely with ethicists and ensure that the innovation adheres to established guidelines and ethical principles.

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