Research ArticleAPPLIED SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING

Low-power microelectronics embedded in live jellyfish enhance propulsion

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Science Advances  29 Jan 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 5, eaaz3194
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz3194

Abstract

Artificial control of animal locomotion has the potential to simultaneously address longstanding challenges to actuation, control, and power requirements in soft robotics. Robotic manipulation of locomotion can also address previously inaccessible questions about organismal biology otherwise limited to observations of naturally occurring behaviors. Here, we present a biohybrid robot that uses onboard microelectronics to induce swimming in live jellyfish. Measurements demonstrate that propulsion can be substantially enhanced by driving body contractions at an optimal frequency range faster than natural behavior. Swimming speed can be enhanced nearly threefold, with only a twofold increase in metabolic expenditure of the animal and 10 mW of external power input to the microelectronics. Thus, this biohybrid robot uses 10 to 1000 times less external power per mass than other aquatic robots reported in literature. This capability can expand the performance envelope of biohybrid robots relative to natural animals for applications such as ocean monitoring.

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