Industrial Electronics

Squid-like robot may lead to new propulsion systems

02 October 2019
An artist's rendering of how the squid-like robot could operate. Source: University of California at San Diego

Researchers are developing new aquatic robots that mimic the movement of squids in order to test how the devices could be used to develop a new form of propulsion.

Researchers at the University of California at San Diego used simulations to illustrate the fluid mechanics of a squid’s swimming method, which uses intermittent bursts through pulsed jet propulsion. Using this type of locomotion, the robot can move extremely fast as it sucks water into a pressure chamber and then ejects it.

These robots, which are made of smart materials, are hard to detect, which could be a boon for potential military reconnaissance and scientific applications. The team also believes the soft-bodied robots could be used as a platform for environmental monitoring by using the propulsion method to test water samples as it swims, or they could be used as a propeller for underwater vehicles. Researchers are building a prototype of the robot to perform both straight-line swimming and maneuvers. This prototype will combine fluid dynamics, control, smart materials and robotic design.

Because these robots are prone to turbulence or instabilities, the next steps include getting the robot to maintain speeds that can last more than a few cycles. Additionally, the team will look into new ways to model robots so they can be used for underwater travel.

The full research can be found in the journal Physics of Fluids.

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