Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas have successfully created what is believed to be the world’s first robotic jellyfish. Constructed from a set of smart materials, which have the ability to change shape or size as a result of a stimulus, and carbon nanotubes, the appropriately named “Robojelly” is able to flow through the water thanks to chemical reactions taking place on its surface.

Jellyfish move through the water by using their long, stringy tentacles in either “rowing” or “jetting” motions. Robojelly, on the other hand, is powered by heat-producing chemical reactions between the oxygen and hydrogen.  The heat given off by these reactions is transferred to the artificial muscles of the robot, causing them to mimic the jellyfish’s propelling mechanisms. “To our knowledge, this is the first successful powering of an underwater robot using external hydrogen as a fuel source,” the lead author of the study, Yonas Tadesse of University of Texas at Dallas, said in a statement.

hydrogen powered jellyfish robot research device
image via Institute of Physics

Because Robojelly has no need for an external power source or the constant replacement of batteries, it could become a more efficient alternative to technologies now used for underwater search and rescue operations, as well as research. Before its potential can be confirmed, however, Robojelly’s creators admit that it will have to move out of the fish tank and into a more realistic testing environment.

“We are now researching new ways to deliver the fuel into each segment so that each one can be controlled individually. This should allow the robot to be controlled and moved in different directions,” continued Tadesse. Check it out in action:

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