Chinese scholars realize 10,000-meter deep-sea drive for soft robots

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After three years of cooperation, the scientific research team of Zhejiang University and Jiang's laboratory have developed a bionic deep-sea soft robot that can be manipulated in the deep sea of ​​10,000 meters. This result was published in the journal Nature on the 4th. "Compared with the traditional ‘armor’ anti-high-pressure deep-diving equipment, the bionic deep-sea soft robot is light in weight and simple in structure, which can greatly reduce the difficulty and cost of deep-sea exploration.

In addition, it does not require motors and motor drives, no noise, and high environmental compatibility. "Said Li Tiefeng, the corresponding author of the paper and a professor at the Center for Cross Mechanics, School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Zhejiang University.

Li Tiefeng said that the inspiration for this research came from the idea of ​​turning the "mystery of life" into the "power of machinery" of the deep-sea lionfish living in the extremely high pressure and deep water between 6000 and 11000 meters in the Mariana Trench. Biological studies have found that the bones of deep-sea lionfish are finely distributed in the gel-like soft body, which can withstand a pressure of nearly 100 MPa.

In May 2018, Li Tiefeng's team and the Intelligent Robot Research Center of Zhijiang Laboratory launched related research. Based on the scattered and fusion of deep-sea lionfish head bones in soft tissues, the project team conducted mechanical design on the structure and materials of electronic devices and soft substrates, and optimized the stress state in the robot body under high-pressure environments.

In the end, the bionic deep-sea soft robot developed by the project team looks like a fish, 22 cm long and 28 cm wide with a wingspan. The robot is made of a kind of intelligent soft material that can maintain good electric drive performance under high pressure and low temperature environment. Hard devices such as control circuit and battery are integrated into a gel-like soft body without a pressure-resistant shell. It can withstand 10,000 meters of deep sea hydrostatic pressure.

In December 2019, the biomimetic deep-sea soft robot sat on the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Sea trial image records showed that the robot achieved a stable flapping wing drive at a depth of 10,900 meters in the Mariana Trench. On August 27, 2020, the soft robot successfully achieved autonomous swimming at a depth of 3,224 meters in the South China Sea.

Li Guorui, the first author of the paper and Senior Research Specialist of the Intelligent Robot Research Center of Zhijiang Laboratory, said that in the future, the project team will continue to study the integrated system of energy, drive, and perception of deep-sea software intelligent equipment, and improve the intelligence of the bionic deep-sea software robot. Application cost.

"We also plan to apply the key technology of the biomimetic soft robot to the deep-sea vehicle, develop miniaturized deep-sea equipment, and realize functions such as deep-sea communication and deep-sea detection.” said Liang Yiming, the engineering specialist of the Intelligent Robot Research Center of Zhijiang Laboratory.


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