Soft Buoyancy Glider

Buoyancy gliders are one of the most power efficient AUVs employed in oceanographic sensing. Launching swarms of these robots would allow for better data collection and understanding of the world's reefs. However, swarming robots need to be small and inexpensive. Difficulties in miniaturizing the buoyancy engine is a significant roadblock in developing gliders that fit this criteria. My research explored design of a novel scalable solid-state buoyancy engine fabricated using phase-transition composites. This scalable engine can be made as small as one cubic centimeter.  The composite engine was used to drive a simple buoyancy glider. The glider had a material cost of $42, a mass of 125 grams, and is capable of untethered closed loop control. Current research focuses on analysing and optimising performance of the buoyancy engine.  

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How It Works

The buoyancy engine is an application of the composite outlined in the paper "Soft Material for Soft Actuators". The material is a mixture of liquid ethanol microbubbles trapped in silicone rubber. When heated, ethanol boils inflating the composite. Cooling allows the material to return to its original volume