Jellyfish to help improve bio-inspired robotic designs

Washington, Oct. 18 (ANI): Researchers have discovered a way in which jellyfish are able to move with the lowest cost of transport of any animal.

Researchers found that rather than moving continuously through water while swimming, jellyfish use a critical pause between the contraction and expansion of their bell-shaped body to create a vortex that pushes them forward.

In essence, it displaces the water behind them, creating a "hole" that when re-filled propels them forward.

Shashank Priya, professor of mechanical engineering and Turner Fellow, who led Virginia Tech efforts on the project, said that this feat of motion allows the creature to travel 30 percent farther each stroke cycle, thereby reducing metabolic energy demand by swimming muscles.

He said that the fluid is helping the jellyfish to move and conserve the energy. The fluid is actually pushing them, and when that energy dissipates, they contract again.

Researchers also found that the jellyfish in the study displayed a lower cost of transport - the amount of food and oxygen taken in by the body, versus energy spent in movement- 48 percent lower than other animals in similar studies.

Priya's team led computational modeling efforts, taking video of the jellyfish movements filmed in laboratory water tanks, and translating that information to computer animation.

The computer modeled jellyfish - unlike the real gelatinous zooplankton filmed in lab settings - allows researchers to control movements of the creature however fast they wish, and in any desired direction.

Virginia Tech also has unveiled a life-like, prototype autonomous robotic jellyfish nicknamed Cyro that is 5 foot 7 inches in length and weighs170 pounds, as part of the larger Office of Naval Research project.

The study has been published in the Proceedings of National Academy of the Sciences. (ANI)

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