Researchers have unveiled a novel robotic insect that can jump off of water’s surface. Magic? No, it’s all about science.
The concept of walking on water reminds us of some highly trained ninjas and might sound supernatural, but in fact it is a quite natural phenomenon. Emulating natural mechanics that allow water striders to jump from rigid ground or fluid water with the same amount of power and height, researchers from Harvard and Seoul National University have managed to recreate this form of water-based locomotion.
New extreme form of robotic locomotion
“Water’s surface needs to be pressed at the right speed for an adequate amount of time, up to a certain depth, in order to achieve jumping,” said the study’s co-senior author Kyu Jin Cho. “The water strider is capable of doing all these things flawlessly.”
It took the international team several trials to fully understand the skills of the water strider.
“If you apply as much force as quickly as possible on water, the limbs will break through the surface and you won’t get anywhere,” said Robert Wood, Ph.D., who is a co-author on the study.
After several error attempts and hundreds of videos of the creature to determine the mechanics involved, researchers discovered that the best way to jump off of water is to maintain leg contact on the water for as long as possible during the jump motion.
“Mimicking these mechanics, the robotic insect built by the team can exert up to 16 times its own body weight on the water’s surface without breaking through, and can do so without complicated controls,”a report says.
Researchers hope to learn from the water strider’s natural morphology and physical intelligence “to build robots that are similarly capable of performing extreme maneuvers without highly-complex controls or artificial intelligence.”
The rise of water-based robots
To produce the body of the robotic insect, “pop-up” manufacturing was used. This new manufacturing technique enables complex three-dimensional machines in the mesoscale. It was developed with the aim of achieving the mass production of robotic insects, such as RoboBee, a robotic device inspired by the biology of a bee.
The strider technology could be useful in water-based search operations but it also looked deeper into nature to develop an novel form of robotic locomotion.
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