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Robots in Ocean help study Marine Life: RAD, the “Soft Trap”

origami trap explore ocean

RAD – Rotary Actuated Dodecahedron is a 3D-printed, 12-sided origami trap that can fold gently around softer sea creatures. The soft-bodied creatures in the ocean like the jellyfish, octopus, sea anemones etc. present a problem to the scientists willing to study them, as any external pressure could damage these delicate organisms. RAD, the design inspired by the Japanese art of origami (paper-folding art), can be attached to the arm of an underwater rover and can be controlled remotely to capture soft marine life safely.

The device is designed with small but important design touches. The gap between the arms is to exclude pressure, and the soft edges ensure that the sea creatures do not get amputated if struggling to escape the trap. The key challenge, according to Harvard University Mechanical Engineer Zhi Ern Teoh, was getting the origami to fold-unfold using a single motor.

The underwater robotics device RAD can be scaled to capture larger organisms too. The device has already been tested successfully, capturing smaller organisms like jellyfish at a depth of 700 meters in the ocean. The device, however, is robust enough to work up to 11 kilometers deep.

David Gruber, a marine biologist who helped design RAD, says that the new technology is like the key to exploring the ocean. The nets and the new suction samplers damaged the delicate organisms, however, the new device will be used to safely capture, study, and understand the vital role that these creatures play in the ocean ecosystem.

MAGAZINES