MIT develops RoboClam anchor

The simple razor clam has inspired a new MIT robot that could lead to a “smart” anchor that burrows through the ocean floor to reposition itself and could even reverse, making it easier to recover.

The RoboClam is being developed to explore the performance capabilities of clam-inspired digging, as well as to shed light on the behaviour of the real animal. 

“Our original goal was to develop a lightweight anchor that you could set then easily unset, something that’s not possible with conventional devices,” said Anette “Peko” Hosoi, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering whose collaborators on the work are Amos Winter, a graduate student in her lab, and engineers at Bluefin Robotics Corp.

Such devices could be useful, for example, as tethers for small robotic submarines that are routinely repositioned to monitor variables like currents and temperature. Further, a device that can burrow into the seabed and be directed to a specific location could also be useful as a detonator for buried underwater mines.

The RoboClam has been completed and although only about the size of a lighter, it is supported by a large apparatus of pressure regulators, pistons and more that control such things as how hard the robot is pushed in each direction. “Right now we’re getting it up and running” for tests, says Winter.

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