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Transparent Robotic Orbs Explore the Ocean

Researchers at the Center for Biosignatures Discovery Automation of the Biodesign Institute at the Arizona State University are designing and developing Sensorbots for exploring the ocean. These Sensorbots are spherical devices that have biogeochemical sensors.

The director of the Center for Biosignatures Discovery Automation, senior scientist Deirdre Meldrum, and her team received a grant of $18 million in 2001 to establish a National Institutes of Health Center of Excellence in Genomics Science. The Microscale Life Sciences Center at the Biodesign Institute was established based on this award.

Researchers in different fields, including mechanical, materials science, electrical, chemical, chemistry, bio- engineering, microbiology and laboratory medicine have joined forces along with others from the Brandeis University, the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center at the Microscale Life Sciences Center.

In an endeavor to fight against cancer and inflammation, the researchers are collaborating to develop microscale devices for analyzing proteins, RNA and DNA of cells. They have developed microscale modules for measuring various factors in living cells for correlating genomic information to events that occur in cells.

For exploring the oceans, these Sensorbots can be deployed in huge numbers. They can communicate together through brilliant blue flashes of light and they travel in a specific formation. These Sensorbots are robotic orbs, which are transparent. They are about the size of a fist and they contain sensors for measuring oxygen, temperature and pH. The measured conditions are converted by the electronic parts inside the sphere into flashes of light. A high-speed camera that is placed on the floor of the ocean is used for detecting and storing the signals, which can be decoded on the research ship.

The Sensorbot project is making use of the National Science Foundation’s Regional Scale Nodes (RSN) project of the Ocean Observatories Initiative.



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