Robot crayfish offers a sniff of the future
Sep. 7, 2007
Hull Daily Mail
Space travelling robotic crayfish may sound like some madcap comic strip, but it could soon become a reality.
Experts from Japan have been conducting tests at The Deep in Hull in a bid to create a robot that can detect odours.
Dr Hiroshi Ishida, a visiting researcher from the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, has been collaborating with University of Hull biologist Dr Thomas Breithaupt in the field of biomimetics, an exciting area of research.
Biomimetics is the study of the design of biological organisms and creating robots that can mimic them.
Dr Ishida is looking specifically at the freshwater crayfish and how it locates prey during its nocturnal foraging using its acute sense of smell.
The robot uses crayfish-like mouth parts and programming that simulates how the crayfish collects and reacts to odours, even in water that is not moving.
Science officer at The Deep, Graham Hill, explained: "Doctors Ishida and Breithaupt met at a Nasa conference looking at robots which could be used to explore space by sensing the environment and surroundings.
"Crayfish are very good at sensing odours. They mainly live in lakes with a very low flow and murky water.
"They detect food and predators using smell. They have fanning organs in the mouth which can detect the source of odours."
There are a wide range of possible applications for this research, as Mr Hill explained.
"It could be used for space exploration and to take chemical samples," he said.
"It could also be used to help find bodies under murky water, which would reduce the amount of time divers would have to spend searching."
Dr Ishida has been using The Deep's facilities while visiting with Dr Breithaupt.
Together they have been able to perfect the robot's behaviour to mimic that of the real animal.
Mr Hill is pleased the scientists were able to make use of The Deep's facilities.
He said: "Dr Ishida came here last year for some preliminary tests. In Tokyo they don't have the facilities.
"We like to be able to help with a wide range of research projects and it helps increase our global reputation."
University of Hull
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