Summary—In this work (link to paper) we developed an underwater gripper that utilizes soft robotics technology to delicately manipulate and sample fragile species on the deep reef. Existing solutions for deep sea robotic manipulation have historically been driven by the oil industry, resulting in destructive interactions with undersea life.  Soft material robotics relies on compliant materials that are inherently impedance matched to natural environments and soft or fragile organisms. In our paper, we demonstrate design principles for soft robot end effectors, bench-top characterization of their grasping performance, and describe in situ testing at mesophotic depths. The result is the first use of soft robotics in the deep sea for the non-destructive sampling of benthic fauna.

See the video from the National Geographic Society.

This study was funded by the National Geographic Society Innovation Challenge (Grant No.: SP 12-14)