Risk
3/23/2012
05:25 PM
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
Twitter
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Robot Jellyfish May Be Underwater Spy Of Future

Jellyfish-like robot, developed with Navy funds, refuels itself with hydrogen and oxygen extracted from the sea. The goal: Perpetual ocean surveillance.

NASA's Blue Marble: 50 Years Of Earth Imagery
NASA's Blue Marble: 50 Years Of Earth Imagery
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Scientists at the University of Texas at Dallas and Virginia Tech have built a jellyfish-inspired robot that can refuel itself, offering the possibility of perpetual ocean surveillance.

Like Slugbot, a robot designed to be able to hunt garden slugs and devour them for fuel, Robojelly, as the machine is called, is self-sustaining. It extracts hydrogen and oxygen gases from the sea to keep itself running.

"We've created an underwater robot that doesn't need batteries or electricity," Yonas Tadesse, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UT Dallas, told the UT Dallas news service. "The only waste released as it travels is more water."

The robot offers one way around a problem that continues to vex researchers developing autonomous machines: operational limitations imposed by the need for frequent refueling. Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories and Northrop Grumman last year concluded that nuclear power would extend the capabilities of aerial drones but couldn't be implemented due to political considerations. The U.S. government presumably would rather avoid the political outrage that would follow from a downed nuclear drone.

A self-sustaining surveillance bot that doesn't involve hazardous materials and doesn't pollute would be much more politically palatable, not to mention operationally useful.

[ Read Angry Birds Space Mirrors Real Rocket Science. ]

Robojelly looks as if it could be related to a novelty umbrella hat, except that it has two hemispherical canopies, stacked one on top of another (the video embedded below depicts an earlier single-canopy version). These bell-like structures are made of silicone and are connected to artificial muscles that contract when heated. The contractions, like those in a real jellyfish, propel the device.

The muscles are made of a nickel-titanium alloy encased in carbon nanotubes, coated in platinum, and housed in a casing. The chemical reaction arising from contact between the mixture of hydrogen and oxygen and the platinum generates heat, which causes the artificial muscles to contract and move the silicone canopies while expelling water.

Tadesse says the next step in the project is to revise the device's legs so it can move in different directions. Right now, Robojelly's fixed supports allow it to move in only one direction.

Robojelly was funded by the Office of Naval Research, which has an obvious interest in monitoring the seas. In addition to scanning the waves, Tadesse suggests the device could be used to check the water for pollutants.


Nominate your company for the 2012 InformationWeek 500--our 24th annual ranking of the nation's very best business technology innovators. Deadline is April 27. Organizations with $250 million or more in revenue may apply for the 2012 InformationWeek 500 now.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Flash Poll
Current Issue
Cartoon
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-1544
Published: 2014-07-23
Use-after-free vulnerability in the CERT_DestroyCertificate function in libnss3.so in Mozilla Network Security Services (NSS) 3.x, as used in Firefox before 31.0, Firefox ESR 24.x before 24.7, and Thunderbird before 24.7, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via vectors that trigger cer...

CVE-2014-1547
Published: 2014-07-23
Multiple unspecified vulnerabilities in the browser engine in Mozilla Firefox before 31.0, Firefox ESR 24.x before 24.7, and Thunderbird before 24.7 allow remote attackers to cause a denial of service (memory corruption and application crash) or possibly execute arbitrary code via unknown vectors.

CVE-2014-1548
Published: 2014-07-23
Multiple unspecified vulnerabilities in the browser engine in Mozilla Firefox before 31.0 and Thunderbird before 31.0 allow remote attackers to cause a denial of service (memory corruption and application crash) or possibly execute arbitrary code via unknown vectors.

CVE-2014-1549
Published: 2014-07-23
The mozilla::dom::AudioBufferSourceNodeEngine::CopyFromInputBuffer function in Mozilla Firefox before 31.0 and Thunderbird before 31.0 does not properly allocate Web Audio buffer memory, which allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (buffer overflow and applica...

CVE-2014-1550
Published: 2014-07-23
Use-after-free vulnerability in the MediaInputPort class in Mozilla Firefox before 31.0 and Thunderbird before 31.0 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (heap memory corruption) by leveraging incorrect Web Audio control-message ordering.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Where do information security startups come from? More important, how can I tell a good one from a flash in the pan? Learn how to separate ITSec wheat from chaff in this episode.