Since many centuries, human beings have been exploring the surface of Earth like the mountains, jungles and the deserts. But the other 70% of the Earth’s surface, which is the ocean, it’s still undiscovered and is still a mystery. In fact, now we know much more about the surface of Mars that what we actually know about the sea floor, as only 20% of the ocean bed has been mapped till now.
As per the part of what’s known as the “blue economy,” which is projected to be worth $3 trillion by 2030, will help us in many different ways. It’ll help us getting a fuller picture would enable us to navigate ships more safely, create more accurate climate models, lay down telecommunication cables, build offshore windfarms and protect marine species.
Underwater robotic vehicles equipped with sensors are assisting in the collection of data in a faster and more cost-effective manner than ever before. However, many of these vehicles rely on short-life batteries that must be recharged by returning to a boat or the shore, making it difficult for them to map more remote parts of the sea.
Seatrec, a five-year-old startup founded by oceanographer Yi Chao, is rising to the challenge. Chao told CNN Business that while working at NASA, he developed technology to power ocean robots by harnessing “the naturally occurring temperature difference” of the sea.
Existing data-gathering robots or Seatrec’s own floating device can be equipped with the power module. This dives a kilometer down to examine the chemistry and shape of the seabed while creating a map of the surrounding area using sonar. The robot returns to Earth and uses a satellite to transmit its findings.
Material inside the module melts or solidifies as the float moves between colder and warmer parts of the ocean, causing pressure that creates thermal energy and powers the robot’s generator.
“They get charged by the sea, so they can extend their lifetime almost indefinitely,” Chao said.