January 2020
Vol 6, Issue 5

About The Cover

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ONLINE COVER Developments in robotic systems have been limited by challenges in generating propulsion while balancing power consumption. While scientists have developed energy-efficient mechanical soft robots from engineered materials that mimic fish and jellyfish, these robots consume more energy than the animals they mimic and must remain tethered to external power sources. Xu et al. measured the response of Aurelia aurita jellyfish to electrical signals of varying amplitudes, pulse durations, and frequencies to explore how best to equip the live animals with microelectronics. After determining how to incite contractions in jellyfish muscles, the researchers built custom portable microelectronic swim controllers and attached the devices to the animals, measuring their bell contractions. They found the jellyfish biohybrids were capable of swimming 2.8 times faster than their more leisurely, all-natural counterparts, while spending only twice their usual metabolic energy. These jellyfish-robot hybrids use between 10 and 1000 times less external power than existing aquatic microelectronics. Since jellyfish thrive in a wide range of habitats, these biohybrids may one day be deployed to record information about oceans around the world. [CREDIT: REBECCA KONTE]