RoboClam in mudflat biomimicry

To design a lightweight anchor that can dig itself in to hold small underwater submersibles, Anette (Peko) Hosoi of MIT borrowed techniques from one of nature’s best diggers — the razor clam.

“The best anchoring technology out there is an order or magnitude worse than the clam — most are two or three orders worse,” says Hosoi…

Using relatively simple anatomy, the bivalve burrows into the bottom of its native mudflats at a rate of a centimeter per second. Hosoi’s studies of the physics behind this remarkable ability have revealed that the digging is accomplished in two motions — a push upwards with its foot, which mixes the grains of solid into the liquid above, and a synchronized push down.

By borrowing this principle, Hosoi and graduate student Amos Winter have created a simple robot that is now being tested out in the salt water mudflats off of Cape Cod. It digs just as fast as the living clam and is “small, lightweight, and does not use a lot of energy,” says Hosoi.

I never met a clam I didn’t like. Especially with melted butter and a little garlic.

Yes, of course, the project rocks, too.

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