I love this kind of stuff as it brings us closer to our robotic overlords, but the US Navy and some awesome researchers have come up with a robotic jellyfish that is hydrogen powered. As in powered right from what it can take from the ocean and can be used for just about anything you can use a jellyfish for. Talk about being able to terrorize a bunch of tourists at a beach. (Note that this sentence used the word “terrorize” which is on the DHS list of things never to say on twitter, or in social media).
Nothing like a hydrogen powered jellyfish to make your entire day, but this is pretty cool if you read the original research report over on Iopsceince which you can get to right here. They state:
Artificial muscles powered by a renewable energy source are desired for joint articulation in bio-inspired autonomous systems. In this study, a robotic underwater vehicle, inspired by jellyfish, was designed to be actuated by a chemical fuel source. The fuel-powered muscles presented in this work comprise nano-platinum catalyst-coated multi-wall carbon nanotube (MWCNT) sheets, wrapped on the surface of nickel–titanium (NiTi) shape memory alloy (SMA). As a mixture of oxygen and hydrogen gases makes contact with the platinum, the resulting exothermic reaction activates the nickel–titanium (NiTi)-based SMA. (42%).
The bad part is that I am thinking this might be an awesome way of running a lander out on Europa and other icy moons around the solar system. If they can drag enough power right from the environment using this same method that will cut down on the amount of power that is needed for our robotic overlords that are exploring the solar system. This might just be an interesting alternative for powering electronics if it can be made small enough. The jellyfish is just the first good way of showing off the technology.
While the US Navy is hemming and hawing on what it could be used for in real life, I am sure they are thinking of some pretty interesting ideas right now for monitoring, tracking and otherwise latching onto enemy warships with a GPS receiver and no one would really notice if this puppy was on someone’s hull. If I can think of this, the boffins over at the USN have probably gone light years beyond what I am thinking. But realistically this is some pretty awesome technology, and well worth reading the original science report. As far as robotic overlords go, with a splash of Doctor Who in there, Jellyfish are pretty awesome.