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University team builds 170-pound jellyfish robot (VIDEO)


Two boys look at jellyfish on display at Resort World Sentosa's Marine Life Park in Singapore.


Chris McGrath

Researchers at Virginia Tech and four other US universities have built a 5-foot, 7-inch robot jellyfish, weighing 170 pounds, that could one day be used by the US Navy to spy on ships or clean up oil spills.

The robot design was inspired by the species Cyanea capillata, one of the world’s largest jellyfish.

The robot, named Cyro, consists of eight mechanical arms draped with silicone, the Los Angeles Times reported. It’s powered by a rechargeable nickel-metal hydride battery.

Cyro, currently at the prototype stage, is funded by the US Naval Undersea Warfare Center and the Office of Naval Research, which are looking to develop self-powered robots that can be used for a variety of undersea tasks, including mapping the seafloor and military surveillance, LiveScience reported.

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According to LiveScience:

Jellyfish make great models for self-powered and autonomous bots partly because of their relatively low metabolic rate, meaning they can move through the sea on little energy.

For Cyro, and other sizes of jellyfish robots the research team is working on as part of the Navy-funded project, the five universities involved are dividing up the work. Virginia Tech is in charge of the jellyfish bodies, integrating fluid mechanics and developing control systems; the University of Texas at Dallas creates nanotechnology-based actuators and sensors; Providence College in Rhode Island manages biological studies; the University of California at Los Angeles deals with the electrostatic and optical sensing/controls; and Stanford University oversees the chemical and pressure sensing.

"We hope to improve on this robot and reduce power consumption and improve swimming performance as well as better mimic the morphology of the natural jellyfish," research team member Tyler Villanueva, a graduate student, said, according to LiveScience.

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