‘Origami’ Robotic Claw Offers a New Way to Study Jellyfish — Without Squishing Them

Professor David F. Gruber (Biology, GC/Baruch), a marine biologist with a passion for using modern technology in the underwater world, wanted to find a way for scientists to study jellyfish and other notoriously squishable sea creatures without harming or killing them in the process.
 
And so he, as part of a team of engineers and marine scientists, developed a tool called the RAD (rotary actuated dodecahedron) sampler: a 3D printed, “origami” robotic claw that can fold itself into a 12-sided enclosure around a jellyfish or other subject in its natural habitat.

illustration of RAD robotic arm underwater

The RAD sampler can efficiently capture delicate ocean creatures for study without injuring them.Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University

The invention was described in a paper published by Science Robotics and described in The New York Times. “It’s almost akin to how a scientist would study a painting in The Louvre,” Gruber told the Times about his team’s goals. “Someone studying the Mona Lisa wouldn’t just cut a piece off and do some analysis on it. We want to get as much information as we can without harming the painting.”
 
Gruber described RAD sampler as a platform technology for “deep sea abduction,” the Times said. With the addition of sensors and cameras, the RAD sampler could function as an underwater laboratory. It is capable of operating more than 36,000 feet below the surface, providing access to sea creatures at the greatest depths.
 
Gruber and his deep-diving science teams have previously discovered dozens of unique biofluorescent compounds, several of which have been developed into tools to discover better cancer drugs. His group also developed a “shark-eye” camera that allows researchers to study a shark’s perspective of its environment.

Submitted on: JUL 19, 2018

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