UNH Ocean Seminar

Developing Biohybrid Robotic Jellyfish for Future Applications in Ocean Exploration

Dr. Nicole Xu
Postdoctoral Associate

National Research Council
U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Friday, Oct. 29, 2021, 3:10pm
Chase 105

Artificial control of animal locomotion has the potential to address previously inaccessible questions about the biology of swimming organisms and animal-fluid interactions, where we are otherwise limited to observations of natural behavior. This work presents a biohybrid robot that uses a self-contained microelectronic system to induce swimming in live jellyfish, both in the laboratory and when deployed in the coastal waters of Massachusetts. By driving body contractions at an optimal frequency range faster than observed in natural behavior, swimming speed can increase nearly threefold, with only a twofold increase in cost of transport to the animal. These experimental results are consistent with an adapted hydrodynamic model developed to characterize enhanced propulsion, and can predict experimental swimming speeds using morphological and time-dependent input parameters from individual animals. With future work to increase maneuverability and incorporate sensors to track environmental changes, we can potentially use biohybrid robotic jellyfish as a ubiquitous and energy-efficient tool alongside other bioinspired and traditional swimming robots to monitor the ocean.  


Dr. Nicole Xu is a bioengineer with an interdisciplinary background in robotics, fluid mechanics, and organismal biology. Currently, her research focuses on using 3D printed biomimetic shark skin wraps to improve the performance of fish-like robots and autonomous underwater vehicles as a National Research Council Postdoctoral Associate at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. In her Ph.D. work at Stanford University, Dr. Xu developed a robotic system to control live jellyfish swimming, which has received international press, including interviews on BBC Radio and TV. She received her M.S. in Bioengineering from the California Institute of Technology and B.S.E. in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania.