Soft Robot Withstands Crushing Pressure at the Ocean’s Greatest Depths

As far back as time first started, there have always been things that we humans don’t know about the Earth. Whether it’s the endless, voidless space or how the universe was created, out of all the things we know about the Earth, the vast ocean has yet to be fully discovered. 

Odds are we won’t know everything about the ocean for centuries, even a millennium. Although progress is being made slowly, scientists have used many gadgets to explore, such as submersibles, remotely operated vehicles (ROV), satellites, rovers, and even sonar. Since 5000 B.C., we have been excavating and finding lots of new things, but scientists predict humans have only discovered about 5 percent. 

One of the many struggles and problems we have to overcome to explore the ocean is water pressure. The further down you go into the ocean, the greater the weight of all the water above you pressing down on your lungs. Since water is much heavier than air, this causes a major block in our excavations, limiting how far down we can go. One of the misconceptions people have is about the fully metal robots scientists could send down. These robots can withstand more water pressure because of the tough material they are made of, but even these have limits. For every 10 meters, you go below the surface level, the pressure increases by one atmosphere.

Recently, scientists have developed a new type of soft robot which can amazingly withstand the crushing pressures of the bottom of the ocean. This new model was inspired by the deepest-living known fish, the Mariana snailfish. This fish is named after where it’s found, the Mariana Trench, commonly known as the deepest location on Earth. The Mariana Trench is 11,034 meters (7 miles). The robot is built using soft materials and electronics, which are distributed to create a machine that can withstand and operate under extreme pressure. Other benefits of a soft robot are that it’s cheaper to build, takes up less space, and it’s more versatile and reliable at greater depths.

It was built by a team of scientists led by roboticist Guorui Li of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. Up until the soft robot was built and tested, the deepest part discovered is at the Challenger Deep, which is 10,900 meters below sea level. The soft robot is able to swim from 70 meters to about 11,000 as of March 4. Although there are many challenges with exploring the deepest part of the oceans, humanity is slowly coming up with ideas to go deeper than ever. Eventually, humanity will reach the bottom, and everything about the ocean will become known.