A blimp that swims through the air like a fish has been created by Swiss researchers. The fish-like airship uses artificial muscles made from electroactive polymers (EAPs) to propel itself forward.
According to Dr. Michel:
"This technique can be transferred directly from water to air. A blimp moving through the air is, in terms of the physics involved, exactly the same as a fish moving through water. In both cases a body is moving through a fluid and is subject to the same laws of fluid dynamics (see simulation)."
The fish-like blimp uses electroactive polymers developed by Empa (a Swiss research group). EAPs are elastic polymer films which, when subjected to an electrical voltage, become thinner and expand in area. If properly employed, this deformation can propel the airship forward (see diagram). And, because EAPs convert electrical energy directly into work without the need to use electric motors and gear systems, EAPs provide efficiencies of up to seventy percent.
The electroactive-polymer sheets merge into the airship hull at four points. When activated by electrical energy, they expand, causing the hull to execute the "bending-rotation-stroke" like a fish in water.
Researchers point to a number of possible applications:
- As relay stations to provide line-of-sight signal transmission
- Communications platforms
- Silently observe animals in their natural habitat.
See also these airships with an science-fictional theme:
- A-170 Video Lightsign Airship Brings Bladerunner Blimp To Sky Near You
- Dynalifter Prototype Ready For Flight
- DARPA's Walrus and Griffith's War-Balloons.
(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission from Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction.)