RoboClam Smart Anchor

RoboClam Smart Anchor The RoboClam 'smart anchor' is a prototype device that claims a real-life biological ancestor; the humble razor clam.


(MIT's RoboClam 'smart anchor')

The razor clam has a special method for digging and burrowing itself deep into the sand. They dig quickly, up to one centimeter per second; they can dig deeply - up to seventy centimeters. Even better, their anchoring force beats everything - including human anchors - by a factor of ten. (Anchoring force is a ratio of how hard you need to pull to get it out versus how much energy was used to embed the anchor.) Researchers hope to borrow this technique to create an anchor that uses smarts rather than weight to set itself on the bottom.

The RoboClam duplicates the razor clam's tricky method of moving through hard-packed marine sand.

[MIT rraduate student Amos Winter] made a startling discovery. The clam's quick up-and-down, opening-and-closing movements turn the waterlogged "sand" around it into a liquid-like quicksand. Experiments showed that "moving through a fluidized substrate [the quicksand] rather than a packed granular medium [ordinary sand] drastically reduces the drag force on the clam's body, bringing it to a point within the animal's strength capabilities," Winter reported.

A working RoboClam smart anchor could be used with other lightweight devices, like underwater rovers that need to briefly anchor themselves to the bottom. They could also be used as markers to point the location of buried cables or mines.

I'm pretty sure that the Wabbler, an underwater autonomous robot from a 1942 short story of the same name by Murray Leinster, also had a special kind of digging ability.

From MIT via Roland.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/6/2008)

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