Quirks & Quarks

Robo-Clams

A device that digs into sediment like a clam could be an efficient self-setting anchor for ships or submersibles....

A device that digs into sediment like a clam could be an efficient self-setting anchor for ships or submersibles.

Why make a robot-clam? Well, according to Dr. Amos Winter, an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Global Engineering and Research Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, because the clam he was imitating does one thing very well: it digs. Eastern razor clams are remarkable burrowers, and can dig themselves deep into the sand quickly and using very little energy. Dr. Winter discovered that they do so by quickly closing their shells, and reducing the volume they take up, making a small pocket of quicksand around their bodies, through which they descend. The robot he's created that emulates this feat will, he thinks, be useful as a self-setting anchor for boats, submersibles or other water vehicles.

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