An underwater digging robot inspired by the Atlantic razor clam has been created by a group of researchers in the US.
RoboClam is able to dig with extreme efficiency by transforming the surrounding soil from a solid into a liquid.
The first results of its performance have been published today in IOP Publishing’s journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics.
The Atlantic razor clam is a large species of mollusc found on the North American coast which has a remarkable ability to burrow quickly and deeply into wet sand, easily out-performing any human digger.
According to the researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the razor clam shouldn’t be be able to submerge itself 70 cm into the soil but it does.
The efficiency is achieved by the opening and closing of the clam’s valves, or shells, which agitate the surrounding soil and turn it into a fluid, therefore creating less resistance and making it easier for the clam to move downwards through the soil.
The researchers have recreated the opening and closing valve mechanism of the razor clam by creating a control platform in the robot which consists of two pneumatic pistons which mimick the razor clam’s valves.
Lead author of the research, Professor Amos Winter says: “There are many applications where a small, lightweight, low-power, reversible anchor would be very valuable. At the moment we are working with an underwater robotics company, Bluefin Robotics, who produce vehicles that need to remain stationary in a current, and could therefore benefit from a small anchor.”
Watch RoboClam in action: