Fish live in a world very different than our own: they have the same mass as their surroundings, and are embedded in their environments, “going with the flow” is, therefore, the only way to go. Successfully getting fish up-and downstream allows them to migrate and reproduce. Researchers need tools to study the many kinds of flows they experience, and this means building a whole new kind of rugged, bio-inspired sensor capable of measuring real-world flows.
To do this, FIThydro is building and implementing a new era of sensors which like fish, are also embedded in their environment and can flow along with it. Two kinds of new sensors are now ready for field testing in 2018: swarms of small pressure and motion sensors which flow through hydropower turbines and fish-shaped probes which can be placed near fishways to find out how flow around a fish’s body can provide information on where the fishway entrances are.
True to the pan-European scope of the FIThydro project, the sensors developed at Tallinn University of Technology, Centre for Biorobotics will be made in field sites in Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Spain and Switzerland. Laboratory tests comparing the sensor data with the movement and behavior of live fish will be done with experts on fish and flows in Portugal. These new biosensor measurements will leverage “data as a common language” to bring together engineers and biologists who design and study fishways and hydropower plants, by providing them with a real-world measurements of the complex and highly turbulent flow conditions fish experience.
The electronic biosensors are just one of many of the new solutions, methods, tools and devices developed as part of the FIThydro project, which aims to increase both the production and ecology of hydropower and support the development of self-sustainable fish populations.
Jeff Tuhtan (TUT)