Robots seem to be able to do anything these days — from clearing clogged arteries to sniffing out disease in crops. Now robots can add jumping on water to their resume, Sid Perkins reports for Science. Scientists have designed a tiny robot that’s so light, it can bounce at the surface of a puddle.
To build their bot, the team drew inspiration from an unusual source: insects called water striders. These bugs possess the handy ability to leap across a puddle or a pond without a single splash. Water striders weigh so little that water’s surface tension can support them, explains Perkins. Hairs on their feet also help keep them afloat.
The strider-inspired robot uses similar methods. It weighs a mere 68 milligrams—seven times the weight of a water strider but still light enough, writes Arielle Duhaime-Ross for The Verge. Its legs are water-repellent, and heat-activated springs push them down at a speed that won’t break water’s surface. All this allows them to walk and jump on water rather than faceplanting.
Why design a robot that can jump on water? Aside from their undeniable cool factor, the aquatic jumping robots could one day be used to find victims of a flood, monitor watery environments and, of course, surreptitiously sneak up on their human overlords.
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