Scientists who study deep-sea organisms often want to capture fragile-bodied animals like jellyfish or octopi. Now, Harvard University has created a Rotary Acuated Dodecahedron (RAD) sampler to do just this, according to New Atlas.
The device, inspired by origami, consists of five 3D printed hinged polymer “petals” that are connected to interlinked rotating joints. Due to the design of the joints and shape of the petal, when a single motor applies torque to the meeting point of the petals, the entire device folds up into a dodecahedron box.
When a delicate creature is located directly in front of the device, the creature gets captured within the transparent box as it folds into shape. The animal is freed when someone releases the torque on the petals.
The technology was designed by Dr. Zhi Ern Teoh and incorporates research from when he was a graduate student working with flat microrobots that could fold into a shape with a motor. Dr. Brennan Phillips, who was also working at the same lab as Teoh, suggested that he use his design for collecting fragile marine organisms.
The RAD prototype was used to safely catch jellyfish at Connecticut’s Mystic Aquariam. It is controlled by a surface-located operator using a joystick, and was able to successfully capture and release squids and jellyfish without harm.
Teoh hopes to add a camera and other sensors to be built into the device, so scientists can get a close-up view of their inhabitants.
“The RAD sampler design is perfect for the difficult environment of the deep ocean because its controls are very simple, so there are fewer elements that can break. It’s also modular, so if something does break, we can simply replace that part and send the sampler back down into the water,” says Teoh. “This folding could also be well-suited to be used in space, which is similar to the deep ocean in that it’s a low-gravity, inhospitable environment that makes operating any device challenging.”
Filed Under: Rapid prototyping