An amazing new robot can exert a force up to 16 times its own body weight, and leap from the surface of the water.
Most humans wouldn’t dare attempting to walk on water, but it’s actually pretty common throughout the rest of nature. Insects that weigh a small fraction of our weight can manipulate the surface tension and maneuver across the surface of a body of water.
According to a report from Phys.org, an international team of researchers has taken inspiration from a common bug called Gerridae, also referred to as the “Jesus bug,” and built a robot that can jump from the surface of the water.
Scientists from Seoul National University, Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have given new insights into the mechanics of the water striders that effortlessly skate across ponds and streams.
Gerridae have evolved to press the surface of the water at the right speed for just the right amount of time, to a certain depth, allowing them to hop and skip. Its legs are equipped curved tips that move rotationally, helping them take off.
Taking notes from from the bug’s design, the researchers got to work designing a robot with the same capabilities. The prototype robot glider can exert up to 16 times its own weight against the surface water without sinking, with relatively simple controls. It was built using a “torque reversal catapult mechanism,” which drew inspiration from the way fleas jump.
The machine was relatively simple, but the engineers were able to tweak it so that it jumped from the surface just like a fleeing water strider might. The robot is the latest design in a growing generation of small, simple, yet precise and powerful robots.