Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Micro sensors help underwater robots swim like fish

Date:
December 12, 2012
Source:
Nanyang Technological University
Summary:
Scientists have invented a 'sense-ational' device, similar to a string of 'feelers' found on the bodies of the Blind Cave Fish, which enables the fish to sense their surrounding and so navigate easily.

(From Left) PhD student Kottapalli Ajay Giri Prakash; Assoc Prof Miao Jianmin and Research Associate Mohsen Asadniaye Fard Jahromi holding the new underwater MEMS sensors.
Credit: Image courtesy of Nanyang Technological University

NTU scientists have invented a 'sense-ational' device, similar to a string of 'feelers' found on the bodies of the Blind Cave Fish, which enables the fish to sense their surrounding and so navigate easily.

Using a combination of water pressure and computer vision technology, the sensory device is able to give users a 3-D image of nearby objects and map its surroundings. The possible applications of this fish-inspired sensor are enormous. The sensor can potentially replace the expensive 'eyes and ears' on Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), submarines and boats that currently rely on cameras and sonars to gather information about the environment around them.

The revolutionary, low-powered sensor is unlike cameras which cannot see in dark or murky waters; or sonars whose sound waves pose harm to some marine animals.

These extremely small sensors (each sensor is 1.8mm x 1.8mm) are now being used in AUVs developed by researchers from Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), a research centre funded by the National Research Foundation. The centre is developing a new generation of underwater 'stingray-like' robots and autonomous surface vessels.

The new sensors, made using Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) technology, will make such robots smarter and prolong their operational time as battery power is conserved.

Associate Professor Miao Jianminfrom the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and his team of four have spent the last five years in collaboration with SMART to develop micro-sensors that mimic the row of 'feelers' on both sides of the Blind cave fish's body.

Associate Prof Miao said the line of sensors present on the fish's body is the reason why it can sense objects around it and still travel at high speeds without colliding with any underwater obstacles.

"To mimic nature, our team created microscopic sensory pillars wrapped in hydrogel -- a material which is similar to the natural neuromasts of the blind cave fish -- into an array of two rows of five sensors," Prof Miao said.

"This array of micro-sensors will then allow AUVs to locate, identify, and classify obstacles and objects in water through water pressure and also to optimise its movement in water by sensing the water flow."

The new sensor array which costs below S$100 to make, is also more affordable than sonars, which can detect faraway objects but not nearby objects and cost thousands of dollars.

Partnering Prof Miao to develop the sensors and to adopt it for use on AUVs is Professor Michael Triantafyllou from SMART. Prof Triantafyllou, from SMART's Centre for Environmental Sensing and Modeling (CENSAM), is one of the world's foremost experts on creating underwater robots modelled after aquatic animals like fish.

Current problems with AUVs include poor navigation in murky or cloudy waters such as those off the coast of Singapore, as underwater cameras can only see a short distance, Prof Triantafyllou said.

"Other methods like underwater lights and cameras, acoustic navigation, and sonars also work, but they are very expensive and require very high levels of power that drain the batteries. The new sensors are much cheaper and only require small amounts of power. Also, sensors like sonar are loud and invasive and they may harm aquatic animals that also use sound waves to navigate," the Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor added.

The aim of the AUVs is for environmental sensing, to detect environmental pollution, contaminants and to monitor the overall water quality in Singapore's waters. The AUVs will have chemical sensors installed to detect the chemical condition of water (dissolved oxygen, nutrients, metals, oils, and pesticides), and biological sensors to monitor water conditions such as harmful bacteria and pathogens.

Other potential application of these MEMS sensors, which specialises in near-field detection include defence applications. These can detect nearby submarines without the use of sonar thatgives away one's location.

This collaborative research resulted in two breakthrough papers being accepted for presentation at a MEMS conference next January in Taiwan, organised by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

One paper is for the development of the piezoelectric sensor which does not require any energy as it generates an electric voltage when water flows past the 'feelers'. The second paper focuses on a low-powered biomimetic sensor which can detect underwater objects even when there is little water flowing past it.

To further improve the sensor, Prof Miao's team is now looking to develop a hybrid sensor which will combine both the zero-energy piezoelectric sensor's high accuracy with the low-powered static sensor's ability to detect objects in still water.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Nanyang Technological University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Nanyang Technological University. "Micro sensors help underwater robots swim like fish." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 December 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121212092635.htm>.
Nanyang Technological University. (2012, December 12). Micro sensors help underwater robots swim like fish. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121212092635.htm
Nanyang Technological University. "Micro sensors help underwater robots swim like fish." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121212092635.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Newsy (July 29, 2014) A report from the White House warns not curbing greenhouse gas emissions could cost the U.S. billions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stranded Whale Watching Boat Returns to Boston

Stranded Whale Watching Boat Returns to Boston

Reuters - US Online Video (July 29, 2014) Passengers stuck overnight on a whale watching boat return safely to Boston. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baluchistan Mining Eyes an Uncertain Future

Baluchistan Mining Eyes an Uncertain Future

AFP (July 29, 2014) Coal mining is one of the major industries in Baluchistan but a lack of infrastructure and frequent accidents mean that the area has yet to hit its potential. Duration: 01:58 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short

Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short

AP (July 29, 2014) The U.S. nuclear industry started building its first new plants using prefabricated Lego-like blocks meant to save time and prevent the cost overruns that crippled the sector decades ago. So far, it's not working. (July 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins