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Submersible Soft Robot Survives Pressure of Mariana Trench

By New Scientist

March 5, 2021

[article image]

A silicone rubber submersible robot engineered by researchers at China's Zhejiang University successfully withstood the immense pressures in the Mariana trench, the deepest oceanic trench on Earth, reaching a depth of 10,900 meters (6.77 miles) below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

The team modeled the robot after snailfish, with electronic components spread throughout its body and wired together so high pressure was less stressful on the hardware.

The vehicle is propelled by two flapping wings driven by artificial muscles made of a conductive polymer that contracts in response to an electrical current.

Tethered to a traditional submarine, the robot maintained this flapping motion for 45 minutes in the Mariana trench.

During untethered tests at a depth of 3,224 meters (2 miles) in the South China Sea, the robot achieved speeds of more than 5 centimeters per second.

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