Ultra-soft robotic gripper for jellyfish and other marine life research

The soft robot designed at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering to catch jellyfish and other soft marine creatures safely could prove a game-changer in the research of deep sea life.

The ‘ultra-gentle’ soft robotic gripper

According to first author Nina Sinatra “Our ultra-gentle gripper is a clear improvement over existing deep-sea sampling devices for jellies and other soft-bodied creatures that are otherwise nearly impossible to collect intact.”

The new ultra-soft gripper is the latest innovation in the use of soft robots for deep sea sampling, an ongoing collaboration between David Gruber, study co-author and Rob Wood, Ph.D. of the Wyss Founding Core Faculty. They have also developed the origami-inspired RAD sampler and multi-functional “squishy fingers” to collect a diverse array of hard-to-capture organisms, including squids, octopuses, sponges, sea whips, corals, and more.

Soft robot suitable for marine life research

Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), and Baruch College at the City University of New York (CUNY) offers a novel solution to that problem.

The scientists have built an ultra-soft, underwater gripper that uses hydraulic pressure to gently but firmly wrap its fettuccini-like fingers around a single jellyfish, then release it without causing harm.

The researchers fitted their ultra-gentle gripper to a specially created hand-held device and tested its ability to grasp an artificial silicone jellyfish in a tank of water to determine the positioning and precision required to collect a sample successfully, as well as the optimum angle and speed at which to capture a jellyfish.

Rob Wood and David Gruber are also co-principal investigators of the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s “Designing the Future” project, and will be further testing their various underwater robots on an upcoming expedition aboard the research ship Falkor in 2020.

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