Scientists have developed a thin smart patch that can withstand twisting, shearing and stretching, even when exposed to high pressures in deep waters and could make studying the behaviour of marine animals easier and more informative.
The patch called Marine Skin is based on stretchable silicone elastomers that can withstand twisting, shearing and stretching, even when exposed to high pressures in deep waters.
“The integrated flexible electronics can track an animal’s movement and diving behaviour and the health of the surrounding marine environment in real time,” said Joanna Nassarm, who was a PhD student in the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia at the time of the research.
Being able to monitor and record a range of environmental parameters is vital in the study of marine ecosystems. Yet existing systems for tracking animals in the sea are bulky and uncomfortable for animals to wear.
“Using simple design tricks and soft materials, we were able to beat the current standard systems in terms of non-invasiveness, weight, operational lifetime and speed of operation,” said Nassar, who is now at California Institute of Technology in the US.
“In the current prototype, the location data is supplemented by recordings of water temperature and salinity. Additional sensing capabilities could be added in future,” he said.
“Possibilities include sensing the physiological state of the tagged animals. This would allow information about ocean chemistry to be correlated with the heath and activity of even small animals as they move around in their habitat,” he added.
The data is currently retrieved via wireless connection when the tag is removed. In future, the researchers hope to develop remote data retrieval procedures by overcoming the problems of transmitting signals through water.
Marine Skin has been tested and demonstrated when glued onto a swimming crab, Portunus pelagicus, but is suitable for tagging a wide range of sea creatures.
The team plans to move on to studies with dolphins and whale sharks. Their long-term aim is to achieve reliable performance when Marine Skin is attached for up to a year on individual animals of diverse types. (IANS)