Adding to the list of scary sea creatures, researchers at MIT have created an invisible underwater predator, made mostly of H2O. This soft and flexible robot is made out of hydrogel and is quick, stable, and transparent when submerged inside the water, which allows it to sneak on and snatch up any fish within the blink of an eye.
This fish on land is nothing more than a jiggly lump of Jello, but when submerged under water the neutral buoyancy allows it to move about without any intricate hydraulics or electric motors. The researchers have created the fish using a series of hollow and interconnected rubber cubes which allow the robot fish to come to life by simply pumping water through the inner chambers of the body, causing the hydrogel to curl up or unfurl.
The idea is taken up from human muscular movements, which essentially expand and contract, similar to the mechanism used in the hydrogel robot. There is some hope of creating more lifelike and complex creatures by building on this design.
The findings and the design were published in a paper in the Nature Journal, which also included the researchers jotting down potential applications for their creation,
Bioactive components (for example, drugs, bacteria and mammalian cells) can be further incorporated in the hydrogel devices for sustained release and controlled delivery. Marine biologists can use hydrogels to design next-generation biomimetic robots more realistic than elastomeric and metallic ones to study their interactions with sea animals.
The MIT researchers hope that these invisible robots can be used as underwater spies for marine biologists to help study sea life in its natural environment without alerting them.
While the idea sounds exciting, the researchers must take care not to repeat the events transpired when a BBC documentary attempted a similar stealth operation in a colony of monkeys resulting in some pretty tragic results.
You can learn more about the hydrogel fish through watching the video below: