The deep sea is the most challenging and least explored place on earth. Many of the deep-sea creatures, such as jellyfish, octopus, and squid have soft bodies, thus it’s difficult to capture them without damaging their body parts using existing underwater tools. to prevent this problem, researchers at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), and Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study developed a device that safely grabs delicate deep-sea creatures inside a folding polyhedral enclosure and then ejects them gently without causing any damage of their body parts.
The grabber is made of five identical 3D-printed polymer petals attached to a series of rotating joints, which link together and create a scaffold. One a torque is applied to the point where the petals meet using a single motor, it makes the entire structure rotate about its joints and fold up into a hollow dodecahedron. The design of the joints and the shape of the petals direct the folding. It can be used by attaching it to a remote-controlled underwater vehicle or any other submersible.
“We approach these animals as if they are works of art: would we cut pieces out of the Mona Lisa to study it? No – we’d use the most innovative tools available. These deep-sea organisms, some being thousands of years old, deserve to be treated with a similar gentleness when we’re interacting with them,” said collaborating author David Gruber, Ph.D.
The team tested the grabber in an aquarium and deep in Monterey Canyon, where they successfully collected and released moon jellyfish. Although the device can only hold the sea creature in place, researchers are planning to include additional hardware, such as DNA swabs and 3D scanners to examine the creatures.
The research was backed by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation. The study was published in Science Robotics.