Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

An intersection of math and biology: Clams and snails inspire robotic diggers and crawlers

12.11.2013
Engineering has always taken cues from biology. Natural organisms and systems have done well at evolving to perform tasks and achieve objectives within the limits set by nature and physics.

That is one of the reasons Anette Hosoi, professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studies snails. Snails can move in any direction—horizontally, vertically, and upside down—on various surfaces, be it sand, shells, tree barks or slick walls and smooth glass. One of the reasons for this is the sticky substance on their underbellies, which acts as a powerful lubricant and reduces friction during movement.

By studying and adapting the biological properties of the snail to robotic devices, Hosoi’s group has been able to create a “RoboSnail,” which can climb walls and stick to overhead surfaces much like its living counterpart. Such a device can have potential uses in invasive surgery and oil well drilling, among other applications.

Another organism of interest to Hosoi is the razor clam, which has an amazing ability to dig and wedge itself; it can burrow up to 30 inches in the sand. Hosoi’s “RoboClam” has been developed with the intention of understanding the organism’s behavior and mechanics as well as to explore the possibility of automated digging devices that use less energy than current technology and equipment .

The researchers found that while digging, the clam’s up-and-down movement accompanied by opening and closing of its shell turns sand into the consistency of liquid quicksand. This in turn allows the clam to move quickly through the sand. Similar to the human version, the RoboClam vibrates, changing the solid seabed into fluid, allowing a worm-like foot to push down.

Clam-inspired robotic diggers could find use as automatic tethers and lightweight low-cost anchoring devices for small robotic submarines and even large ships and oil platforms. Devices that burrow into the seabed could also potentially be used as detonators for underwater mines.

Hosoi is not alone in looking to biology to instruct robotics development. Engineers around the world are turning to natural organisms like insects, fish and turtles to inspire the design of robots capable of performing specific tasks that automated devices have traditionally been unable to achieve. Mimicking natural organisms can also aid in improving the efficiency of many applications that are energetically expensive, since biological entities perform the same tasks with much higher efficiency.

It is important to not only copy the animals, but also to understand the biology of their mechanisms in order to take away the key features that allow them to do what they do. These types of biomechanical studies have led to a mutually beneficial partnership between mathematicians and biologists. Biologists can inform mathematical scientists as a goldmine of data is emerging as biology becomes more and more quantified. Mathematicians, in turn, can employ the tools of engineering and computation to analyze this data and offer new insights into the way animals move.

Karthika Muthukumaraswamy | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.siam.org

Further reports about: RoboClam vibrates RoboSnail up-and-down movement worm-like foot

More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:

nachricht Investigating cell membranes: researchers develop a substance mimicking a vital membrane component
25.05.2018 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

nachricht New approach: Researchers succeed in directly labelling and detecting an important RNA modification
30.04.2018 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>