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Tiny Robotic Fish Save Sea Life From Disasters

Updated on September 30, 2012

Inner workings of a tiny little robot hero

The inner workings of the tiny robotic fish
The inner workings of the tiny robotic fish

These wonderful robotic fish days!

As we stand by watching the ocean life decay in the muck and slime that has become our west coast shoreline in 2010, a huge, yet tiny discovery teitors on the brink of brilliance. Usually when we think of robots that can articulate on their own, we visualize a clunky square footed creation reminiscent of the 1960's ,"Danger will Robinson" robot that actually had no name. Well, those days are far behind us as a new breed of purely graceful petite robots gather on the shores edge waiting to take their first swim into the history books.

Super Small Powerful Fuel Cells

Newly created devices and specialized materials that equate perfectly to super small and powerful fuel cells, drive these robots longer and more efficiently than ever imagined. Some find a place under ocean waves to detect pollution, tidal changes and temperature variances. Some have a more gratifying job, that of seeking out endangered sea life cheering it on and leading it to safer and clearer waters and breeding grounds.

I am certain that like me, you will find intrigue and amazement at today's robotic wonders created by professors and assistants near and far. The motion designed by these genius engineers mimics the true being so closely it demands a closer look.

Robot fish leading a school of real fish

Real fish are attracted by robot fish as it leads them to safety following an oil spill, saving their lives and possibly our future fishing industry.
Real fish are attracted by robot fish as it leads them to safety following an oil spill, saving their lives and possibly our future fishing industry.

Heroic Little Robot Fish

This fishy robot has an agenda. It just isn't satisfied (as are the other robot fish I will discuss in this article), to simply gather tidal information or measure pollutants in the ocean, it wants to lead the way to sea life safety and well being! This little robot is designed to become dominant in a school of real fish for the purpose of leading them toward safer waters. (do they make little super-hero uniforms that small?)

Created by Maurizio Porfiri, assistant professor at Brooklyn laboratories at Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly), the robot fish has been created with the potential to lead fish away from underwater turbines found at power plants. As the technology becomes more mature and proves its worth, the smart materials and mathematics are believed to be applicable in any number of animal-saving super hero's. It is thought that they may be adaptable to bird leaders taking endangered species to new nesting grounds as our changing climate and the human impact put a strain on their usual locations.

Engineering Robot Fish Activity and Leadership

Dialing in and studying the effects of how fish determine familiar areas numerically, for example; fish typically count three or four things around them—humans count around ten—which is key to the success of the project. Knowing that the right numerosity is being used becomes vital to the effectiveness of Porfiri's team when considering how to program the robotic fish to be leaders within a variety of species' schooling masses.

Once all of the numbers have been crunched and the fish are set to guide their schools to safety, I am left to wonder, over time, just where will the safe water be?

Tiny Fuel Cell Operated Ithiological Robots

Tiny Hydrogen Peroxide Fuel Cells

A tiny fuel cell powers a tiny robotic fish designed recently by Osaka City University engineers. This mini fuel cell is a "cylindrical solid-polymer fuel cell" which is also known as a power tube. The single joint found on the fish design has a magnetic actuator attached to it, causing it to propel the robot forward. When changing directions required, the design uses a small weight that moves around changing the center of gravity inside the robot fish. The fuel cell uses hydrogen peroxide to supply oxygen underneath the tides. The hope is that in time, the fish will be able to swim uninterrupted for up to three days. This would allow the unit to be used in marine rescue situations, as well as survey missions with the addition of a camera. The video below shows the design in action.

Fuel cell drives robot fish!

This robot fish is on patrol looking to detect pollution or underwater leaks like that of the BP debacle

Robot Fish Design

The design is costly and bulky compared to its more refined tiny fish robot brothers, but it is designed to patrol the deep open ocean in search of pollution. Similar to the tiny robot fish I spoke of earlier in this article - the ones that round up fish and lead them away from dangerous environments - these larger extraordinary fishes look so real that you may just take a second look. Check out the video below, it shows how true-to-life the swimming motion and reactions are by this grand robotic fish.

Realistic Looking Robot Fish

This very realistic robotic fish, has a very large price tag. For about $30,000 this 58" (two inches short of 5 feet) smooth swimming robot fish can be made. They are designed to swim out to open sea and gather up information about pollution levels and the ocean health in general. The robot fish then returns to a re-charging station to deliver the information discovered at sea and recharge for the next trip.The charge generally lasts for about 8 hours which is limiting the area that the robot fish can cover. The hope is that the obvious cost barrier along with the limited acreage the synthetic critter can cover can both be modified to a more cost effective and distance friendly state. Early discovery of under water pipeline leaks would be well worth the price tag as we consider the current BP pipeline leak disaster.

The natural motion of this robot fish is amazing and brilliant!


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