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Chinese researchers develop soft robot for deep sea exploration

Asia / Science and technology
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The careful design of the dielectric elastomer from which the robot's flapping fins are made has made it possible to successfully use the robot in field trials in the Mariana Trench.

Chinese researchers develop soft robot for deep sea exploration

Scientists from the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang have developed a bionic soft robot to make deep sea exploration easier and more environmentally friendly.

The result of a study by a team from Zhejiang University and China's Zhejiang Lab was published in Nature on Thursday.

According to the researchers, thanks to the electronic components located in the gel-like body, the fish-shaped robot can withstand high pressure at great depths. The scientists were inspired to create the robot by the deep-sea liparis.

“Compared to traditional deep-sea equipment equipped with armor, the soft robot is lightweight and simple in design, which can significantly reduce the complexity and cost of deep-sea exploration,” said study leader Li Tefeng of Zhejiang University.

What's more, a robot powered by "artificial muscles" rather than an electric machine or engine does not make noise or cause much harm to sea creatures when it flaps its fins to move, he added.


In 2019, as part of a field test, the research team lowered the robot into the Mariana Trench to a depth of 10,900 m, and last year it made a free float at a depth of 3224 meters in the South China Sea.

Researchers plan to apply key bionic soft robot technologies to deep-sea vehicles and develop miniature deep-sea equipment with various functions such as deep-sea communications and control and measurement.

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