Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart have created a tiny robot that mimics the jellyfish, plopping up and down within a liquid medium. This research holds great potential when investigating the impact of environmental changes in the ocean’s ecosystem. Another aim is for Jellyfishbot to be applied in the treatment of cancer.
“The idea behind this project was twofold,” says one of the researchers Dr. Metin Sitti, Director at the MPI-IS and head of the Physical Intelligence Department.
“We learn and take inspiration from a range of biological systems to create tiny bio-inspired robots. We use them to study and better understand biological systems. But more importantly, such newly created robots could perhaps one day solve the critical scientific and technological challenges we face in healthcare and environment, helping to improve the welfare of our society.”
The scientists named their invention “Jellyfishbot”. The untethered robot features an umbrella-shaped bell and trailing tentacles, just like its natural model, reports Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems.
As Jellyfish are one of the most common species in the ocean ecosystem, and are a key component in the food chain, their population greatly depends on their survival during their early life-cycle. Therefore, the scientists decided to investigate the ephyra jellyfish – the juvenile of this species – and studied its swimming, predation, and bio-mixing behavior.
They discovered that the jellyfish uses a paddling motion to propel itself forward. When swimming, it actively creates a fluidic flow around its soft body. It does so to catch prey by pulling and trapping small organisms under its umbrella while moving about.
These jellyfishbots could also be used to deliver drugs inside human body. “A possible application scenario is to control the robot to swim inside the bladder under the guidance of ultrasound imaging, and to patch to a target, such as cancerous tissue, to release the cancer drug for a long time in controlled dose,” says Xiaoguang Dong, a Ph.D. student in the Physical Intelligence Department. “This could have a huge impact for patients. It could reduce the discomforts brought by conventional treatment procedures and increase the treatment efficiency.”