Thu. Feb 22nd, 2024
    Robotics Takes Inspiration from Nature: WaterStrider Robot Taps into Insect Mechanics

    Scientists at Washington State University have developed a remarkable robotic creation inspired by the water strider insect. The WaterStrider robot, measuring just 22 mm long and weighing a mere 56 milligrams, mimics the water strider’s ability to move across water surfaces using surface tension. This tiny robot utilizes a specialized actuator that is believed to be the smallest of its kind ever made.

    Instead of relying on traditional motors or hydraulics, the WaterStrider’s actuator is made up of two incredibly small wires composed of a nickel-titanium alloy. These wires contract when heated and return to their default, longer state when cool. By applying a pulsating electrical current, the wires rapidly switch back and forth between their contracted and relaxed states, causing the connected arms of the robot to flap at a rapid rate. This flapping motion enables the WaterStrider to “paddle” itself across the water’s surface, achieving a speed of about 6 mm per second.

    The actuator is not only efficient but also incredibly strong. It can lift an astonishing 155 times its own weight. This impressive strength makes the technology potentially useful in applications such as micro-fabrication, robotic-assisted surgery, search and rescue, and environmental monitoring.

    The research team, led by Assoc. Prof. Néstor O. Pérez-Arancibia and engineering PhD student Conor Trygstad, is currently working on integrating the power supply into the robot and exploring the possibility of developing other insect-inspired robotic creations that can move both on and beneath the water’s surface.

    This innovative development has the potential to revolutionize various industries by taking advantage of the water strider’s unique mechanics. By drawing inspiration from nature, researchers are continuously pushing the boundaries of what robots can achieve, opening up new possibilities for technological advancements.

    FAQ:

    1. What is the WaterStrider robot?
    The WaterStrider robot is a robotic creation developed by scientists at Washington State University. It is inspired by the water strider insect and is able to move across water surfaces using surface tension.

    2. How small is the WaterStrider robot?
    The WaterStrider robot measures just 22 mm long and weighs only 56 milligrams, making it extremely small and lightweight.

    3. How does the WaterStrider robot move across water?
    Instead of using traditional motors or hydraulics, the WaterStrider robot utilizes a specialized actuator made up of two small wires composed of nickel-titanium alloy. These wires contract when heated and return to their longer state when cool. By applying a pulsating electrical current, the wires rapidly switch between their contracted and relaxed states, causing the robot’s arms to flap and paddle itself across the water’s surface.

    4. What is the strength of the WaterStrider robot’s actuator?
    The actuator of the WaterStrider robot is not only efficient but also incredibly strong. It can lift an astonishing 155 times its own weight.

    5. What are the potential applications of this technology?
    The WaterStrider robot’s impressive strength and ability to move across water surfaces have potential applications in various industries, including micro-fabrication, robotic-assisted surgery, search and rescue, and environmental monitoring.

    Definitions:

    – Actuator: A device that produces physical movement or controls a mechanism or system.
    – Surface tension: The cohesive forces between liquid molecules at the surface of a liquid that make the surface act like a stretched membrane.

    Related links:
    Washington State University
    Robotics Industry Association
    Engineering.com