More practically, the new jellyfish-bots highlight a technique that uses pre-stressed polymers to make soft robots more powerful.
“Our previous work focused on making soft robots that were inspired by cheetahs—and while the robots were very fast, they still had a stiff inner spine,” says Jie Yin, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University and corresponding author of a paper on the new work in Advanced Materials Technologies.
“We wanted to make a completely soft robot, without an inner spine, that still utilized that concept of switching between two stable states in order to make the soft robot move more powerfully—and more quickly. And one of the animals we were inspired by was the jellyfish.”
The researchers created their new soft robots from two bonded layers of the same elastic polymer. One layer of polymer was pre-stressed, or stretched. A second layer was not pre-stressed and contained an air channel.