Our research includes the following three main directions:
1. Research and development of the third generation of new bionic intelligent robotic fish-type unmanned submersible.
According to the characteristics of materials and manufacturing processes, the development of submersibles can be divided into three generations. The first generation is a fully manned submersible, which uses a steel-made pressure hull and mainly relies on aviation gasoline to provide buoyancy. It is very bulky and has almost no self-propelled capability. The second-generation unmanned/manned submersibles use solid buoyancy materials to provide buoyancy, and uses ultra-high-strength steel, aluminum alloys, or titanium alloys to make pressure hulls, thereby realizing the miniaturization of the submersible and improving the self-propelled capability. However, compared with the motion performance of marine fish, there is still a big gap in navigation ability, rapidity, maneuverability, propulsion efficiency, and vibration and noise control. In order to greatly improve the performance and reduce the cost of submersibles, it is necessary to develop the bionic intelligent robotic fish-type submersibles as soon as possible. We define it as the third-generation submersibles, which are characterized by replacing solid metal and buoyancy materials with flexible and large-deformation soft materials, traditional welding and forging technologies with 3D printing-based manufacturing technology, traditional control technology with artificial intelligence technology, and traditional sensors with sensors designed and manufactured based on nanotechnology. From the research and development of a single bionic fish prototype to the collaborative work of the entire fish school, the majors required in this direction include marine engineering, robotics, mechanics, machinery, materials, energy, control, computers, sensors, information and et al.
In this research direction, our group has been funded by Westlake University and the Guangdong Provincial Key R&D Program. The prototypes of the "Xigu I" 2000-meter deep-sea bionic submersible and the "Xigu II" 100-meter bionic submersible are currently being tested in Qiandao Lake and south China sea.
2. Industrialization and application of second-generation deep-sea submersible technology.
The underwater intelligent equipment used for industrialization promotion in this direction includes underwater marine cleaning robot, underwater security and monitoring systems, underwater wet-mateable connectors, etc. With the support of the Westlake Talent Project, our group has established Zhejiang Nektron Intelligent Technology Co., LTD., and the industrialization will be carried out by Nektron Company.
The underwater marine cleaning robot can solve the problems such as the decrease of speed and increase of fuel consumption caused by biological attachments, as well as the difficulty of cleaning deep-sea fish cages and large-scale net-cage deep-sea fisheries. Our group has completed the development of the first-generation “Westlake I” cleaning robot, and carried out the system pool function test and the offshore ship cleaning test, showing that this set of equipment can effectively peel off the marine organisms attached to the hull without damaging the paint. Compared with similar foreign products, the cleaning robot developed by our group has more stable performance, easy service and low price.
Underwater security and monitoring system refers to the construction of a three-dimensional observation and disposal system covering the surface, water, and bottom based on the surface unmanned vehicle, underwater vehicle, and underwater observation system, providing a “one-stop” solution for underwater threat discovery, identification, and capture, to fill the gap in the field of domestic underwater intelligent security. The project has been funded by the Zhejiang Provincial Key R&D Program and will be piloted in the underwater venues of the Hangzhou Asian Games. It has broad application prospects for underwater security and monitoring products in port defense, important water events or economic activities.
The underwater wet-mateable connector is a necessary charging and information transmission interface for all underwater vehicles. Currently, the deep-sea connectors are mainly imported from abroad, which is a “bottleneck” technology. To solve this problem, our group organized technical research and solved technical problems such as the deep-sea pressure compensation, connection reliability, anti-signal attenuation and so on. The products we develop can replace foreign products, and the mass production cost is greatly reduced compared with imported products, which is of great significance for improving the localization rate of underwater equipment in China.
3. Fundamental research on the unified theory for large complex engineering systems.
With the development of science and technology, the engineering systems implemented by human beings are becoming more and more complex. However, theories dealing with different scales such as quantum mechanics, classical mechanics, and theory of relativity, as well as information science are still full of contradictions. It is urgent to build a unified theory. Current focuses in this research direction include unified system theory, uncertainty handling, multidisciplinary design optimization, artificial intelligence and soft material design, analysis, and manufacturing.