Studying sea snakes for underwater robot design

Feb 03, 2014 by Kate Bourne

The fascinating body structures of sea snakes which adapt them for life in water are being studied by University of Adelaide researchers as inspiration for a marine robot - the first of its kind.

Postgraduate mechanical engineering research student Amy Watson and a team of engineering, environmental science and computer science researchers will use the sea snake and swimming motion to generate a design for a 'bio-mimetic' sea snake robot.

"Biomimetics or biology-inspired design is a rapidly growing field which uses the results of millions of years of trial-and-error experiments through natural evolution to produce a machine that's best-adapted for a particular environment," says Ms Watson. "The success of the sea snake's aquatic invasion is of interest to both evolutionary biologists and mechanical engineers."

Sea snakes are the only fully aquatic reptiles in existence. They evolved about eight million years ago from an Australian terrestrial snake ancestor that bore live young (rather than egg-laying), and most sea snakes are still found in Australia and South-East Asia.

"From the more or less cylindrical body with a tapered tail of land snakes, the true sea snakes have become efficient swimmers with ribbon-like bodies and paddle-shaped tails," says Ms Watson.

"In the transition from land-based to marine vertebrates, sea snakes have acquired remarkable swimming capacity. We want to capture and analyse the body shape and movement to generate information that will enable a more efficient design for underwater vehicles."

The undulating locomotion of a snake-like robot will be much less invasive in the marine environment than a propeller-based machine and will be able to move through complex habitats more easily because of their streamlined shape, says Ms Watson.

"The first step in the process is to learn more about the anatomy of sea snakes and this project starts bone deep - with the spine," she says.

She is investigating the biomechanics of the spine using high-resolution CT scanning at Adelaide Microscopy and 3D simulation models of vertebrae to test the movement.

The range of motion between pairs of vertebrae located at different positions along the spine will be compared along the spine of a single snake and between snakes of different species.

Explore further: European teams demonstrate progress in emergency response robotics since Fukushima disaster

More information: Ms Watson is presenting preliminary results and discussion around the implications for sea snake robot design at the University of Adelaide-hosted combined conference ACMM23-ICONN2014 on microscopy and nanoscience at the Adelaide Convention Centre this week. For further information see www.aomevents.com/ACMMICONN

Related Stories

New snake species found in a museum

Oct 25, 2012

Scandinavian scientists have discovered a new species of snake in a Copenhagen museum, which they have called the Mosaic sea snake, a Swedish university said on Thursday.

Deadly sea snake has a doppelganger

Nov 19, 2012

(Phys.org)—Scientists have discovered that the lethal beaked sea snake is actually two species with separate evolutions, which resulted in identical snakes.

UFO cross-section gives snakes a lift

Jan 29, 2014

Snakes aren't usually renowned for their ability to fly, but Chrysopelea snakes from southeast Asia regularly launch themselves from trees into the air gliding for 10s of meters before touch down. In a bid to understand how ...

New species of sea snake discovered

Feb 21, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists have discovered a new species of sea snake in the Gulf of Carpenteria, northern Australia, which is unique in having raised scales.

Recommended for you

Researchers develop intelligent handheld robots

10 hours ago

What if handheld tools know what needs to be done and were even able to guide and help inexperienced users to complete jobs that require skill? Researchers at the University of Bristol have developed and ...

Robot walker for elderly people in public spaces

May 22, 2015

Elderly people with walking difficulties are often intimidated by busy public places. This led an EU research project to develop a robot walker to guide them around shopping centres, museums and other public ...

Standard knowledge for robots

May 20, 2015

What do you know? There is now a world standard for capturing and conveying the knowledge that robots possess—or, to get philosophical about it, an ontology for automatons.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.