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Published April 5, 2021 | public
Journal Article

Developing Biohybrid Robotic Jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) for Free-swimming Tests in the Laboratory and in the Field


Biohybrid robotics is a growing field that incorporates both live tissues and engineered materials to build robots that address current limitations in robots, including high power consumption and low damage tolerance. One approach is to use microelectronics to enhance whole organisms, which has previously been achieved to control the locomotion of insects. However, the robotic control of jellyfish swimming offers additional advantages, with the potential to become a new ocean monitoring tool in conjunction with existing technologies. Here, we delineate protocols to build a self-contained swim controller using commercially available microelectronics, embed the device into live jellyfish, and calculate vertical swimming speeds in both laboratory conditions and coastal waters. Using these methods, we previously demonstrated enhanced swimming speeds up to threefold, compared to natural jellyfish swimming, in laboratory and in situ experiments. These results offered insights into both designing low-power robots and probing the structure-function of basal organisms. Future iterations of these biohybrid robotic jellyfish could be used for practical applications in ocean monitoring.

Additional Information

© 2021 The Authors; exclusive licensee Bio-protocol LLC. We gratefully acknowledge Cabrillo Marine Aquarium for providing Aurelia aurita medusae, and Angela Fan for illustrating the scientific artwork associated with this manuscript. This work was supported in part by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Grant Number DGE-1147470, awarded to N.W.X. in 2015. The protocols are appended from the original manuscripts, Xu and Dabiri (2020) and Xu et al. (2020a). A. aurita are invertebrates that do not possess a brain, central nervous system, pain receptors, or nociceptors, and therefore do not require protocol review or approval from the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). However, we took great care to ensure the welfare interests of these animals, in accordance to the precautionary and minimization principles to reduce the number of animals used and refine procedures to minimize potential distress. We also monitored the jellyfish and microelectronic systems to ensure that we introduced no additional electronic waste or other material into the ocean. Further information about our ethical views can be found in Xu et al. (2020b). Additional information is described for laboratory experiments in Xu and Dabiri (2020) and for field experiments in Xu et al. (2020a). The authors declare no competing interests.

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August 20, 2023
October 23, 2023