At the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, a team of scientists has created a tiny robot that mimics the jellyfish. Its physical appearance and movements could certainly be mistaken for a real life jellyfish, as it elegantly plops up and down within a liquid medium.
“The idea behind this project was twofold,” said Dr. Metin Sitti, one of the lead researchers. “We learn and take inspiration from a range of biological systems to create tiny bio-inspired robots. We use them to study and better understand biological systems. But more importantly, such newly created robots could perhaps one day solve the critical scientific and technological challenges we face in healthcare and the environment, helping to improve the welfare of our society.”
The new robot is only five millimeters in diameter and is made from an elastomer. Within its flaps are magnetic particles that can be pushed and pulled by a magnetic field. Using an oscillating electromagnet, the researchers can make the robot move up, down, and to the sides.
Moreover, the team managed to get their robot to grab onto tiny particles and move them around. This is possible by finely tuning how the electric field induces vibrations in the robot. Potentially, it may be possible to use this technology to deliver drugs, and other therapeutic agents, into hard to reach places in the human body.
Here’s some footage of the jellyfish-like robots in action:
Study presented at Robotics: Science and Systems conference: A Magnetically-Actuated Untethered Jellyfish-Inspired Soft Milliswimmer
Previous study in Nature Communications: Multi-functional soft-bodied jellyfish-like swimming