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Robotic Clam Digs in Mudflats

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, whose group is presenting this work next week at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society's (APS) Division of Fluid Dynamics will take place from November 22-24 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

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.

The robot is operated electronically via a tether and is made to open and close via pressured air from a scuba tank.

The presentation, "The design, testing, and performance of RoboClam, a robot inspired by the burrowing mechanisms of Atlantic razor clam (Ensis directus)" by Amos Winter et al of MIT is at 11:35 a.m. on Sunday, November 22, 2009.


The 62nd Annual DFD Meeting will be held at the Minneapolis Convention Center in downtown Minneapolis. All meeting information, including directions to the Convention Center is at:
Credentialed full-time journalist and professional freelance journalists working on assignment for major publications or media outlets are invited to attend the conference free of charge. If you are a reporter and would like to attend, please contact Jason Bardi (, 301-209-3091).
Main meeting Web site:
Searchable form:
Local Conference Meeting Website:
PDF of Meeting Abstracts:
Division of Fluid Dynamics page:
Virtual Press Room: SEE BELOW
The APS Division of Fluid Dynamics Virtual Press Room will contain tips on dozens of stories as well as stunning graphics and lay-language papers detailing some of the most interesting results at the meeting. Lay-language papers are roughly 500 word summaries written for a general audience by the authors of individual presentations with accompanying graphics and multimedia files. The Virtual Press Room will serve as starting points for journalists who are interested in covering the meeting but cannot attend in person. See:

Currently, the Division of Fluid Dynamics Virtual Press Room contains information related to the 2008 meeting. In mid-November, the Virtual Press Room will be updated for this year's meeting, and another news release will be sent out at that time.

A reserved workspace with wireless internet connections will be available for use by reporters. It will be located in the meeting exhibition hall (Ballroom AB) at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Sunday and Monday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Tuesday from 8:00 a.m. to noon. Press announcements and other news will be available in the Virtual Press Room.
Every year, the APS Division of Fluid Dynamics hosts posters and videos that show stunning images and graphics from either computational or experimental studies of flow phenomena. The outstanding entries, selected by a panel of referees for artistic content, originality and ability to convey information, will be honored during the meeting, placed on display at the Annual APS Meeting in March of 2010, and will appear in the annual Gallery of Fluid Motion article in the September 2010 issue of the journal Physics of Fluids.

This year, selected entries from the 27th Annual Gallery of Fluid Motion will be hosted as part of the Fluid Dynamics Virtual Press Room. In mid-November, when the Virtual Press Room is launched, another announcement will be sent out.

The Division of Fluid Dynamics of the American Physical Society exists for the advancement and diffusion of knowledge of the physics of fluids with special emphasis on the dynamical theories of the liquid, plastic and gaseous states of matter under all conditions of temperature and pressure. See:

Jason Socrates Bardi | Newswise Science News
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