A Chinese research team has developed a soft robot that can swim in the Mariana Trench.
One of the problems with remote controlled deep-sea submersibles is the enormous pressure. The body of the apparatus must be designed to withstand the pressure in the deepest parts of the sea.
In this work, the researchers took a new approach to this problem: in their robot, they simulated a soft fish.
Previous research has shown that you can make a soft robot, for example, from silicone or other polymers. In their work, scientists have created a robot from soft polymers in the shape of a flying fish. The wings flap thanks to the “muscles” in the silicone body, and the current causes them to contract. Attenuating the current allows the wing to relax to its natural state.
The authors of the work decided to test the robot first in the laboratory, then on the lake, and then in the South China Sea. Testing was successful at all three locations. The team then hooked up the robot to a traditional underwater vehicle and sent it into a trench in the Mariana Trench to a depth of 10 km, where it worked just as well.