Jellyfish are soft and umbrella-shaped sea creatures with tentacles. Jellyfish have a lot of physical abilities that might teach us and help us discover things. The problem is, if we want to catch the jellyfish to do research on it, it is so soft that if we simply touch it we might damage it. Scientists created a robot that has silicone claws or fingers that trap the jellyfish, since the silicone is soft it won’t damage the jellyfish as much. Nina Sinatra is a mechanical engineer at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A mechanical engineer is someone who uses gadgets with moving parts to create new things. She designed a submersible (something that can go underwater) robot with silicone fingers that swell with water to trap the jellyfish without smooshing it. The robot is designed with a 3D printed palm that looks like a box. The fingers are made up of silicone which is soft and also a stiffer layer of nanofibers. The fingers have a little channel inside of them so water can flow through them, so when a jellyfish comes towards it, it can fill with water and bend to “hug” the jellyfish. In the beginning, they made the hand with 4 fingers, but then the jellyfish squeezed its way out. So to correct the problem, they added more fingers. The robot fingers use a force of a newton which is approximately the weight of an apple on the palm of your hand.
The scientists want to study the robot in the ocean, but this will require equipment that can withstand the pressure of the deep sea. They think the robot will successfully catch the jellyfish and will hold up against the pressure of the water, and its materials won’t weaken from the water. They also hope that in the future, it could include sensors and samplers to grab DNA and cameras to take photos. Nina Sinatra says that robots don’t need to be made out of hard metals or materials; they can also be made out of soft, foamy or squishy materials.
I think that the robot that ‘hugs’ jellyfish is good because we can explore the sea and find new information that we can use to help us later on. it’s also good because now people can come up with ideas to create robots in new materials that might be able to help us with a lot of new things. It teaches us that robots aren’t just big chunks of metal. We can make robots that can go on land, air, and sea that need to be gentle and not harm the creatures they are trying to catch. It doesn’t relate to anything we’ve done or learned in science.
By Brady 4T