Robotics continues to develop through the years, with scientists focusing on flexibility, dexterity and much more. “Muscles” made out of origami allow robots to become more flexible, as movement is an ongoing issue in robotics. Now scientists are another step closer to making robots seem alive by developing a robotic fish that can swim for 37 hours.
The newly-created robotic fish measures about 16 inches in length and does pretty much everything a regular fish would do. It swims at decent speeds and can perform most of the abilities recognizable in real fish. However, there’s one thing that makes it different from other robots; it doesn’t have solid batteries. Scientists developed a new method to power it by installing a dual-function fluid that stores energy and moves through the fish’s fins, similar to how blood flows through our veins. This approach not only resembles the physical functioning of live animals, but it also allows the robot to store more energy in smaller places while operating without a problem.
The robotic fish that can swim for 37 hours is a huge step forward in the development of autonomous robots. In a statement about the study published the journal Nature on June 19, Robert Shepherd, a roboticist at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., said he expects that robots will one day be able to operate and complete even demanding tasks without help or guidance.
According to Cecilia Laschi, a roboticist at Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy, it’s extremely challenging to make robots autonomous for extended periods because of heavy batteries that don’t have a very long lifespan, especially if the robots are equipped with a myriad of applications, like rescue missions and deep sea exploration. Using heavy batteries makes it problematic to conduct missions for extended periods because the robots would have to recharge. Additionally, heavy batteries put more weight on the robot, and then it requires more power to move, causing a loop.
Shepherd’s team opted for a battery fluid instead of hydraulic fluid. The robotic fish that can swim for 37 hours is also equipped with a pump that helps it move its fins effortlessly so it can swim easier. The pump and battery fluid increase the amount of energy stored in the robot 325% compared to machines running on separate batteries and hydraulic-fluid systems, Shepherd said.
“I find the idea fantastic, it’s a very original idea,” Lasci said.