Watch: Origami-inspired underwater trap helps study delicate marine creatures

Rotary Actuated Dodecahedron (RAD) sampler.

Rotary Actuated Dodecahedron (RAD) sampler.   | Photo Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University

The device was tested in the open ocean at a depth of 1,600 to 2,300 ft.

Studying soft-bodied deep sea creatures like jellyfish and squid have been a difficult task for marine biologists as existing underwater tools cause damage or even kill them.

Now, researchers from Harvard University’s Wyss Institute have developed an origami-inspired sampler using folding polyhedral sides that can trap deep sea soft creatures without causing them any harm. The research was recently published in Science Robotics.



“Origami, the Japanese art of folding, is used as an inspiration to help us build 3D objects from 2D sheets.We have developed a way to fold 3D shapes from its 2D net using only one actuator [component responsible for movement],” explains Dr. Zhi Ern Teoh from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University in an email to The Hindu. “Minimizing the number of actuators is key because incorporating actuators is a relatively more complex engineering task and you have to figure out ways of attaching, powering, sensing and coordinating the folds. Therefore even though the system of linkages looks more complex, it consists entirely of revolute joints which are mechanically much simpler.”

The device — named Rotary Actuated Dodecahedron (RAD) — can be attached to any remotely operated vehicle (ROV). The pilot of the ROV uses cameras to position the sampler near a sea creature of interest and then tells the operator of the sampler to close the sampler, entrapping the creature. The device was tested in the open ocean at a depth of 1,600 to 2,300 ft and the researchers say that it can be modified to withstand higher pressures at increasing depths.

“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,” adds collaborating author David Gruber from City University of New York in a release. “We’d like to add cameras and sensors to the sampler so that, in the future, we can capture an animal, collect lots of data about it like its size, material properties, and even its genome, and then let it go, almost like an underwater alien abduction.”

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 8:23:17 AM |

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