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These Jellyfish-Mulching Robots Could Be the Savior of the Seas

These new robots can chew up nearly a ton of jellyfish per hour

Jellyfish are a scourge. No, really. In 2000, they nearly shut down part of the Sydney Olympics. This week, they did shut down a Swedish nuclear power plant, by jamming the cooling-water intake pipes. Last year, a jellyfish relative did the same thing in California.

Jellyfish often appear in huge numbers: global shifts in nutrients and temperature mean that their populations are boomingClimate change, with its warming and changing ocean currents, could make the problem worse. Even the oxygen-depleted dead zones that choke other ocean species are no barrier to the jellies. And, when overfishing wipes out everything else, jellyfish are more than happy to move in. Putting all this together, we’re left with the sense that jellyfish are taking over.

They probably will, too.

But a team of roboticists at the Korean Advanced Institution of Science and Technology will be damned if they’re going to go down without a fight. Hyun Myung and his team, says IEEE Spectrum, designed the Jellyfish Elimination Robotic Swarm (JEROS), a team of robots that work together to seek and destroy swarms of jellyfish. When the robots find some jellies the whole team converges, and then they go to work:

IEEE Spectrum:

Together, the JEROS robots can mulch approximately 900 kilograms of jellyfish per hour. Your typical moon jelly might weigh about 150 grams. You can do the math on that (or we can, it’s about 6,000 ex-jellyfish per hour), but the upshot is that we’re going to need a lot of these robots in order to make an appreciable difference.

More from Smithsonian.com:

What’s Behind That Jellyfish Sting?
Have You Seen a Jellyfish Lately?

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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