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Innovation: transforming jellyfish into cyborgs to study the ocean depths

© Leonid Danilov/Pexels

The oceans are the areas of the globe that we know the least about. Much of this is not mapped in detail due to its extent and depth. Scientists working in this field are doubling their inventiveness in order to push the exploration of this extremely important biome ever further critical. The RAD2 robot is a very recent example of these advances, making it possible to study species in depth without the presence of humans.

Here, researchers from Caltech (California Institute of Technology), led by professor of aeronautics and mechanical engineering John Dabiri, have moved towards another solution. Increase the physical capabilities of jellyfish using advanced technologies to use them as vectors for underwater exploration. An innovative approach, at the intersection between robotics and biology.

Cyberjellyfish as explorers of the abyss

Jellyfish are animals that have been present in the oceans for approximately 500 million years. They are distinguished in particular by their biological simplicity: they are mainly composed of water and are devoid of a brain. This does not prevent them from moving in the water with remarkable efficiency.

Basically, Dabiri's team tried to design a robot imitating the very effective swimming movement of these animals. Despite their best efforts, they were not successful. This failure led them to rethink their approach differently. Instead of artificially recreating the jellyfish's abilities, why not augment the jellyfish themselves with advanced technologies ?

Thus was born&#8217 ;idea of ​​transforming them into cyborgs, “ that is to say a being that is both organic and biomechatronic  » according to the definition of Futura Sciences. The devices in question would then be used to control and increase their swimming speed. This would allow jellyfish to swim up to three times faster and only increase their energy consumption by twice.

The choice of jellyfish is not a coincidence. “ Since they have neither a brain nor the ability to feel pain, we were able to collaborate with bioethicists to develop this biohybrid robotic application in an ethically compliant manner  » Dabiri explains. The jellyfish are therefore not harmed by the addition of this advanced equipment.

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How are jellyfish equipped?

The first device the researchers worked on was similar to a heart implant, and simply allowed them to play with swimming speed. But this was coupled with other equipment to make the jellyfish even more efficient at the task.

The second, called, “&nbsp ;forebody “, is more complex, and is more like a 3D printed hat. Once attached to the jellyfish's umbrella (its head), it acts like a ship's bow, reducing water resistance and allowing the animal to move more efficiently. The design of the forebody draws its inspiration from the technologies used in the design of vehicles and aeronautical machines.

The augmented jellyfish underwent testing in a vertical aquarium specially designed for the occasion. The results were very satisfactory since the cyber jellyfish swam 4.5 times faster than their counterparts left natural.

Equipped in this way, these jellyfish could revolutionize ocean exploration by enabling the collection of environmental data in deep and difficult-to-access ocean regions. This is a feat from both an engineering and marine biology perspective. They could one day play a central role in monitoring ocean health and helping detect environmental changes to the seabed caused by human activities. “ It is widely recognized that the ocean plays a crucial role in determining our current and future climate on Earth, yet we know surprisingly little about it.” #8217;ocean, especially far from the surface » Dabiri explains.

The Caltech project has great potential. For the moment, while it has focused on increasing the mobility of jellyfish, the team is considering other improvements. In particular, the development of sensors capable of withstanding the extreme pressures of the depths. If they succeed, collecting this data would then become much more accessible and less expensive than traditional methods.

  • Caltech researchers have increased the physical capacity of jellyfish by transforming them into cyborgs.
  • The device is made up of two elements: an implant increasing their swimming speed as well as a 3D printed hat to make them more aerodynamic.
  • This innovation could revolutionize underwater exploration, by making it possible to harvest data in difficult access locations.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116