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Dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs), a soft actuator technology, hold great promise for biomimetic underwater robots. The high-voltages required to drive DEAs can however make them challenging to use in water. This paper demonstrates a method to create DEA-based biomimetic swimming robots that operate reliably even in conductive liquids. We ensure the insulation of the high-voltage DEA electrodes without degrading actuation performance by laminating silicone layers. A fish and a jellyfish were fabricated and tested in water. The fish robot has a length of 120 mm and a mass of 3.8 g. The jellyfish robot has a 61 mm diameter for a mass of 2.6 g. The measured swimming speeds for a periodic 3 kV drive voltage were 8 mm/s for the fish robot, and 1.5 mm/s for the jellyfish robot.
Bio-inspired underwater robots have several benefits compared to traditional underwater vehicles such as agility, efficiency, and an environmentally friendly body. However, the bio-inspired underwater robots developed so far have a single swimming mode, which may limit their capability to perform different tasks. This paper presents a re-configurable bio-inspired underwater robot that changes morphology to enable multiple swimming modes: octopus-mode and fish-mode. The robot is 60 cm long and 50 cm wide, weighing 2.1 kg, and consists of a re-configurable body and 8 compliant arms that are actuated independently by waterproof servomotors. In the robot, the octopus-mode is expected to perform unique tasks such as object manipulation and ground locomotion as demonstrated in literature, while the fish-mode is promising to swim faster and efficiently to travel long distance. With this platform, we investigate effectiveness of adaptive morphology in bio-inspired underwater robots. For this purpose, we evaluate the robot in terms of the cost of transport and the swimming efficiency of both the morphologies. The fish-mode exhibited a lower cost of transport of 2.2 and higher efficiency of 1.2 % compared to the octopus-mode, illustrating the effect of the multiple swimming modes by adaptive morphology.