A new remotely operated vehicle called ‘Squishy Fingers’ was designed to take samples of coral specimens without damaging their fragile bodies, and help improve undersea research, according to a new study.
David Gruber, co-senior author of the study, an associate professor of biology at Baruch College in New York City and a National Geographic emerging explorer, said that people should be as gentile as possible when studying an underwater coral reef – which is why the new ROV was developed.
Unit recently, researchers used rigid and clunky remotely operated underwater vehicles (that were initially designed for the gas and oil industries) to study coral. The stiff arms of the ROVs – which could generate gripping and lifting forces of about five hundred pounds-force (227 kilograms-force) – were not made to sample tiny organisms off a coral reef, but to do heavy work, researchers explained.
Robert Wood, study co-senior author and a Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences in the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (a school within Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences), and Gruber, assembled a team to design and build ‘Squishy Fingers’.
‘Squishy Fingers’ is a remotely operated underwater vehicle that has a soft, yet firm grip. When designing the vehicle, the team took inspiration from various marine creatures, like the snake and the tube worm. The ‘fingers’ of the ROV are made of silicone rubber, Kevlar fibres, memory foam, and fibre glass, the researchers said.
According to Wood, since humans cannot dive beyond 330 feet (about one hundred metres) bellow the water surface, it is important that the new remotely operated underwater vehicle can dive even deeper to bring back marine creatures that are typically hard to reach.
So far, ‘Squishy Fingers’ was able to dive at about 0.6 miles (one kilometre) deep. Gruber said that the next goal is to make the robot complete a dive at a 3.7 miles (about six kilometres) depth.
The specimens retrieved by ‘Squishy Fingers’ will then be studied by researchers – who will analyse the proteins and genomes of underwater animals and plants, and possibly identify new species, Gruber noted.
The remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) was described in a study published Wednesday (Jan. 20) in the journal Soft Robotics.
Image Source: the-nref