05.10.2018 change 05.10.2018

Chemists are developing a drive for an artificial fish - underwater "spy" for the army

Source: PAP Source: PAP

Chemists from the Nicolaus Copernicus University are developing a drive for an artificial fish - "herring", designed to detect the activity of foreign navy objects. Thanks to the use of intelligent material, the robot should undetectable in the water.

Chemists from the Nicolaus Copernicus University have been commissioned to develop the drive by the Polish Naval Academy in Gdynia.

Leader of the polymer physicochemistry team at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Dr. Jacek Nowaczyk reminded that his team was working on the "herring", an artificial fish designed to detect the activity of underwater military objects. "The problem is the propulsion of that fish" - he told PAP.

Torun specialists are expected to solve this problem. Their goal is to create a drive that will be "invisible" to currently known equipment that detects electronic devices in water.

"We have attempted to create a propulsion that mimics the one occurring in living organisms, such as fish. There are designs of so-called artificial muscles that take into account polymeric materials with special properties. We will try to use this approach" - Dr. Nowaczyk explained in the interview with PAP.

He reminded that the Faculty of Chemistry of the Nicolaus Copernicus University already has experience in the field of application of modern materials, including polymers.

"Our task is to create propulsion prototype for this artificial fish. Our proposals include using elastomers (polymer plastics - PAP) or nanoparticles with magnetic properties. It is also possible to use conductive polymers" - added the chemist.

The scientist admits that the exact mechanical design of this drive is very complicated. "It`s supposed to work like a muscle, so the fish will be covered with a polymer that will insulate it from the environment packed with sensors" - he explained.

"The drive itself will create microcells that will change their volume, so that the system - like a muscle in the body - will change shape, causing the response and movement of the entire mechanism" - says Nowaczyk.

Dr Marta Ziegler-Borowska from the Department of Chemistry and Photochemistry of Polymers at the Nicolaus Copernicus University added that the material would be "intelligent".

"It is supposed to deform under the influence of an impulse. We assume that it will be an electrical or magnetic impulse - hence the magnetic nanoparticles used in the materials. The deformation can not be one-off. A fin that will deform and return to its original shape only once does not solve the problem. This fish is supposed to swim" - said Dr. Ziegler-Borowska.

She emphasised that the deformation must be long-lasting and the material should be fairly flexible. "In addition, it must be resistant to the aquatic environment and high salinity, because the fish is supposed to operate in sea waters" - she noted. The material should also be resistant to high pressure under water.

Researchers from the Nicolaus Copernicus University admit that they get a lot of interesting orders from various entities - including private ones - but this is one of the most exciting. "This is something new for us - a challenge. But it seems that all our friends and family are even more excited than we are. My teenage son is excited that mum is making gadgets for the army" - said Dr. Ziegler-Borowska.

Dr. Ewa Olewnik-Kruszkowska, who also works on this project, said that chemists from the Nicolaus Copernicus University had previously developed other materials with specific properties to order. "We were looking for new non-flammable and luminous materials, mainly for the industry" - she added.

PAP - Science in Poland, Tomasz Więcławski

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