The life-like lionfish is similar to an animal’s vascular system in that it can store energy, pumped throughout the body.
It has a multi-functional circulatory system with a blood-like compound powering the robot in a pumping fashion, creating the illusion of a pulse.
Robots usually operate by storing energy from a battery, but the robotic fish harvests its energy from a synthetic blood-like solution, enabling it to move its fins and swim against a current.
Scientists have also programmed the realistic bot to maintain body fluid pressure and discharge waste – just like a real fish.
James Pikul, a co-author of the study at the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, said: “We realised that the operation time of most robots is very short before they have to recharge, on the order of tens of minutes, yet humans can operate for days without eating.
“We wanted to solve this problem by finding ways to store energy in all the components of a robot.
“This robot blood is our first demonstration of storing energy in a fluid that is normally only used for actuation.”
Pikul added: “As the fluid is pumped through the fish robot, the moving fluid causes the robot to move. The vascular system, therefore, is multifunctional. It is these multiple functions that allow the robot to maintain it’s dexterity while also having a lone operational time.”
The scientist and his team came up with the idea for the robot while brainstorming new ways of making robots more independent.
He said: “We realized that the operation time of most robots is very short before they have to recharge, on the order of tens of minutes, yet humans can operate for days without eating.”
In tests, the robotic fish was able to work for eight times longer than traditional robots.
It is able to swim for long durations, against a current, and operate at a rate of 1.5 body lengths per minute, with a maximum of 36 hours.