A group of Korean and U.S. researchers were able to perfectly mimic the moves of water strider to create a robotic bug that can not only walk on but also leap from water’s surface.
Although water walking may seem usual, researchers explained that it is quite a common phenomenon in some animals’ world. For instance, a creature that is small enough can make water’s surface tension work at its advantage and help it move around.
But jumping around on water is not that usual. Only a species of insects can achieve that by creating enough upward thrust to propel themselves ahead while walking on water. So, Seoul National University in South Korea (SNU) and Harvard scholars closely watched the moves of those creatures and issued a plan to simulate them in laboratory conditions.
A paper on the study, which was published Friday in the journal Science, even provides deeper insights into the physiological mechanism that allows water striders to perform their famous jumps.
Kyu-Jin Cho, senior researcher involved in the study and other projects led by the SNU’s Biorobotics Laboratory and Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, explained that the tiny insects must reach a perfect balance between speed and force of thrust in order not to break water’s surface tension and start to sink.
“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,”
The research team explained that the water-strider’s legs were especially designed to perform the jumps. For instance, when the insect takes off from water’s surface its legs’ curved tips allow it to perform a spin-like movement that propels it upwards, scientists noted. This discovery was made by team member Ho-Young Kim, a robotics researcher working for the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and head of the Micro Fluid Mechanics Lab.
Dr. Eunjin Yang, another Micro Fluid Mechanics Lab researcher and one of the lead-authors of the study, helped Prof. Kim with his water-strider research. Both researchers spent countless hours collecting the tiny insects and recording their every move with slow motion cameras.
But finding the mechanism behind the odd creatures’ ability of jumping on water took several tries and robotic bugs that could mimic the semi-aquatic insect’s smooth moves (see video below).
The water-strider inspired robots allowed researchers learn that there is a secret to water jumping that only a water strider knows – the bug/bot needs to maintain leg contact with water’s surface as long as it can before it performs the took off.
Image Source: Clapway
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