Jellyfish may get a bad rap because they sting, but at Virginia Tech they are inspiring new technology that could help keep oceans clean.
Dr. Shashank Priya and his a research team studied sea creatures like jellyfish in order to create an energy-efficient vehicle called “RoboJelly”, a robotic jellyfish designed to save energy and blend in with its surroundings.
“The material used to make this jellyfish is perfectly environmentally friendly,” said research team member Alex Villanueva. “It’s very biocompatible. It’s very much designed in a way so that it won’t have any adverse effect on nature.”
Once deployed, Robojelly can be left alone and will report back on its findings. This cuts down on the time and money that would normally be spent on data collection. RoboJelly is intended to be solar powered—using ocean currents and mechanical arms to move, then floating up to the surface to absorb sunlight.
“We’re dealing with a type of propulsion that’s not commonly studied,” said Villanueva.
Both civilians and the Navy are interested in the potential applications of “RoboJelly”, some of which include monitoring animal migration, detecting pollution and even cleaning up oil spills. Eventually, the robotic jellyfish could possibly absorb energy from ocean currents, a design inspired by the way jellyfish eat.