Robotic tuna makes use of variable-stiffness tail for extra environment friendly swimming

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Given that they are such naturally proficient swimmers, the bodily construction of fish is more and more being copied within the design of underwater robots. Scientists have now found that by adjusting the stiffness of their tails, these bots can swim far more effectively.

In actual fish, the tail muscular tissues may be stiffened up for optimum high-speed sprinting, or loosened off for higher low-speed cruising and maneuverability. Fish-inspired robots, nevertheless, must compromise – their tails are set to 1 stiffness which is not best in all conditions.

“Having one tail stiffness is like having one gear ratio on a motorbike,” says the College of Virginia’s Prof. Dan Quinn. “You’d solely be environment friendly at one pace. It might be like biking by means of San Francisco with a fixed-gear bike; you’d be exhausted after only a few blocks.”

Sadly, it’s totally tough to find out when and if fish do truly change their tail stiffness. Working with postdoctoral researcher Qiang Zhong, Quinn turned to fluid dynamics and biomechanics to derive a theoretical mannequin. In a nutshell, the mannequin said that tail stiffness ought to enhance with swimming pace squared.

Qiang Zhong (left) and Dan Quinn with their AutoTuna robot

Qiang Zhong (left) and Dan Quinn with their AutoTuna robotic

Daniel Benjamin Quinn / The College of Virginia

As a way to put their concept to a real-world check, the scientists constructed a robotic tuna referred to as AutoTuna. Based mostly on the tail-stiffness mannequin, the gadget makes use of a programmable tendon to robotically differ the stiffness of its tail because it swims in a lab-based water channel. Remarkably, it will possibly swim over a wider vary of speeds than an otherwise-identical fixed-tail-stiffness robotic, whereas utilizing nearly half as a lot vitality.

The researchers at the moment are investigating how the expertise might be utilized to robots primarily based on different kinds of swimming animals.

“Stiffness-tuning mechanisms like ours may be miniaturized fairly simply, so they may assist robots of varied shapes and sizes,” Quinn tells us. “The tougher half is to determine how stiff the robotic ought to be at varied swimming frequencies and speeds. We used a bodily mannequin and water channel checks to develop a management legislation for our robotic to make use of because it tuned its tail stiffness robotically. That mannequin would should be recalibrated when you made the robotic a lot greater (e.g. a dolphin-like robotic) or switched to a distinct swimming kind (e.g. a stingray-like robotic), however that’s completely doable.”

A paper on the analysis was lately revealed within the journal Science Robotics.

Supply: College of Virginia through EurekAlert


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