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'Robojelly': The underwater robot that powers itself with seawater

A new bio-inspired 'bot uses synthetic muscles to glide through the water like a jellyfish

The video: Robots inspired by the animal kingdom come in all shapes and sizes, but are you ready for this jelly? Scientists from Virginia Tech are working on an underwater soft-tissued robot, nicknamed "Robojelly," that takes its cues from jellyfish. The robot triggers a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to provide the energy its carbon nanotube "muscles" need to contract like the invertebrate it's named after and propel the machine through seawater. (Watch a demonstration below.) "What's water?" asks researcher Alex Villanueva. "It's hydrogen and oxygen. So you've got [a potentially] infinite source of fuel." Scientists are excited about employing such a self-sustaining underwater robot for ocean monitoring, pollution tracking in spills, and advanced underwater reconnaissance work for the Navy.

The reaction: Robojelly is "one of the first and best demonstrations of a combination of nanotechnology, hydrogen-fuel technology, and soft robotics," Xin Chen of Boston University tells Discovery News. Perhaps, but more simply put, Robojelly is "squishy awesome," says Amanda Kooser at CNET. And it could end up being a first-class underwater spy. "Who's going to look twice at an amorphous jellyfish blob? Keep that in mind the next time you plan to go skinny-dipping in the ocean." Take a look:

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