20,000 leagues under the sea you'll find all sorts of massive cephalopods. And in the near future they just might be joined by a submarine straight out of Jules Verne.
When spooked, an octopus can propel itself by taking sea water into its body and then shooting it out again as a high powered jet. The octopus can also steer the jet of water coming out of its body in order to accurately direct itself through the sea.
All this simplicity and precision got researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA thinking. They surmised that a system based upon an octopus would not only offer a new choice in submarine silent engines, but also be adaptable for all manner of small craft. Anything from small boats to jet skis and surfboards could soon be propelled by small octopus-like engines — with a few less suction cups.
A small, 3D printed version of the new engine has already cleared internal lab tests. The octopod propulsion system it uses is comprised of four separate engines, the output from each of which can be adjusted to make precise directional adjustments. If scaled-up versions of the engines work as well as the prototype does, we could all be riding the waves with octo-engines at our feet someday very soon.