A newly developed suctioning device could help robots explore the depths of the ocean by attaching to sea creatures.
According to the study published in Science Robotics, the adhesive disk — which was created using 3D printing, laser cutting and soft robotics — can lift almost 100 pounds and withstand pull-off forces more than 340 times its own weight.
The researchers designed the adhesive disc based on the flat dorsal fin of the remora fish, or suckerfish. The fish’s suctioning fin is made of many tiny slats that the fish uses to hitchhike a ride on sharks.
By employing the design, robots could similarly attach to animals for an underwater journey in ways previously unattainable. Other adhesives used in machines broke down underwater and couldn’t withstand the extreme pressure and conditions at high depths.
“Scientists could record data by attaching this robot to animals without hurting them,” Beihang University research team member Li Wen told New Scientist.
In addition, robots could travel quicker using less energy by relying on their underwater host. For example, the robotic stingray that achieved a record-breaking pace for underwater robots only moved at 6 centimeters a second, compared to sharks that can swim at more than 1.5 meters per second.
The team tested the sucker on glass, an iPhone, a juicebox and even shark skin.
“Using our prototype, we have designed an underwater robot capable of strong adhesion and hitchhiking on a variety of surfaces …” the study reads. “Our results demonstrate that there is promise for the development of high-performance bioinspired robotic systems that may be used in a number of applications based on an understanding of the adhesive mechanisms used by remoras.”