This Robotic Claw Gently Captures Sea Life Without Harming Them

Cultivating jellyfish in labs is difficult, so scientists have searched for years for a way to collect deep sea samples without hurting them. This origami-like robot could be the eureka moment.

  • Video: Wyss Institute at Harvard

Fluorescent proteins from jellyfish have helped scientists discover a wealth of information about the human body. Since the 1960s, they have been used to illuminate brain circuits, to track cancer cells, and to highlight the way in which pancreatic cells produce insulin. Dr David Gruber is a marine biologist at the University of New York's Baruch College who is passionate about exploring the enigmatic world of the jellyfish in its infinite variety.

Video: Wyss Institute at Harvard University
Video Duration

Since cultivating jellyfish in laboratories is extremely difficult, he has been searching for years for a way to collect deep sea samples without hurting them. The RAD sampler is the eureka moment in his quest.

In 2014 he started collaborating with Robert Wood, a Harvard University roboticist, on soft robotics, creating what were – in effect – squishy fingers to harvest delicate specimens. Then Zhi Ern Teoh, a post-doctoral researcher, refined the idea, creating the origami-like robot in this video that is automated to fold itself around creatures without hurting them. RAD stands – not particularly snappily – for ‘Rotary Actuated Dodecahedron’. Yet there should be no mistaking quite how significant an advance it represents in being able to collect deep sea creatures, register their data, and then release them to continue their lives.

Articles

Further Reading

Truly Madly Deeply

Iridescent scales, exotic patterns, fluorescent fins: the jewels of the ocean. Ali bin Thalith’s passion for marine photography, kindled by his wish to capture a shot of the rare crystal octopus, has lasted for over 10 years 

Mirrorlands

A shift in the balance of world power means that China and Russia are currently more aligned than at any point since the 1950s. Ed Pulford takes a journey along the border between two superpowers.

Cliff Diver: Blake Aldridge

‘You feel like superman. No matter what insecurities you have it makes you fulfilled for that short space of time.’ Former Olympian Blake Aldridge on forging a career jumping off cliffs.

Swimming Upstream

This year's forest fires in the Amazon marked an environmental catastrophe, but a Rolex-award-winning scheme to save its largest fish spells hope for the future.

Up Close: Pools

Photographer Stephan Zirwes’ ‘Pool’ series illustrates the incredible waste of potential drinking water – not only in private pools but also in the privatisation of a public asset for commercial reasons.

To the Congo

Children play on abandoned planes at Goma Airport during a rare time when no security forces, or the UN, were stationed there, in this series by Magnum photojournalist Michael Christopher Brown.
Browse by Category