Unveiled in 2009 by the EMPA, the Swiss federal laboratories for materials science and technology, this balloon has electric actuators attached on either side of its body. When voltage is applied, polymers in this 26-foot-long helium-filled balloon's skin expand and constrict like a fish, propelling the craft silently. Christa Jordi, the lead scientist on the project, says the trout balloon could be used in such sound-sensitive situations as spy missions, animal observation and stadium events. The Flaming Lips need one. . . .
Dielectric elastomer actuators act as artificial muscles, compressing and expanding when charged with electricity.
A thin and rigid carbon-fiber-reinforced epoxy skeleton runs lengthwise through the "fish" and, like a spine, bends without any hinged joints.
The helium-tight membrane is made of Heptax, a plastic that's also used to seal food products
[Image courtesy EMPA