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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

South Korea Develops Jellyfish Shredding Robot

Janelle Cabuco |
October 20, 2013 | 8:34 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

(Janelle Cabuco, Neon Tommy)
(Janelle Cabuco, Neon Tommy)

Jellyfish are terrifying when alone, but imagine how terrifying they can be when they travel in millions. Sweden’s Oskarshamn nuclear power plant was recently forced to shut down due to an invasion of jellyfish.

In response to this jellyfish epidemic, scientists at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejeon, South Korea have developed what they call the “Jellyfish Elimination Robotic Swarm,” or JEROS for short

A similar incidence occurred in Dec. 1999, when a coal-fired plant was shut down in the Philippines because its cooling pipes got clogged with jellyfish. The shut down of plants due to jellyfish infestations are actually quite common; incidents such as these two also occurred in places such as Japan, Israel, and Florida. 

The JEROS robot travels at about 4.6 miles-per-hour and uses a combination of GPS and on-board cameras to visually detect jellyfish swimming near the water’s surface. It uses submergible nets to suck up the jellyfish, and then uses a propeller to pulverize and shred the jellyfish to pieces.

According to a Korean professor, the robots can eliminate almost 900 pounds of jellyfish per hour. 

Watch a video of the JEROS process here

Researchers believe that this robot can reduce the risk of large hordes of jellyfish threatening human swimmers. In addition, this robot may also allow humans to control jellyfish breeding. Jellyfish travel without using much energy, and it is because of this that they are able to use the majority of their energy towards growth and reproduction. 

Though there seems to be many pros to this invention, there are also many cons.

For example, this prototype robot does not collect the remaining pieces of the jellyfish that have been shredded. So remaining jellyfish carcasses continue to float in the ocean even after being pulverized and may eventually float onto shores. Therefore, the shredding of jellyfish may not actually reduce the risk of a person being stung in the long run, since a jellyfish’s tentacles continue to sting even after being shredded. Also, when jellyfish are cut open, their eggs and sperm are released back into the ocean, which allows artificial fertilization to occur. This may result in an even larger increase in jellyfish then if they were left to breed on their own. 

Though the elimination of jellyfish angers many animal activists, it brings ease to many seaside cities whose economies have been damaged by the species. Jellyfish have been named responsible for about $300 million worth of damages and losses to fisheries in South Korea, and they can cost seaside businesses millions when they have to close their beaches down due to jellyfish swarms. In addition, jellyfish can cause problems for the ecosystem when they travel in swarms; swarms of jellyfish have been seen to stretch for hundreds of miles in the wild.  

Scientists have been working on these robots since 2009, and they have just finished testing three of their prototypes in Masan Bay. They plan to carry out further field tests to ensure the efficiency and practicality of their invention. 

Reach Staff Reporter Janelle Cabuco here



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