By studying the water strider, an insect that can glide and leap on the surface of water, scientists from Harvard and Seoul National University were able to create a one-of-a-kind robot.
Researchers have created a tiny robot that resembles an insect capable of walking on water — and even jumping from its surface without sinking.
Walking on water happens in the natural world, mostly with tiny insects, and one of the best examples is known as the water strider, a four-legged bug from the family Gerridae, it can sit on the surface tension of the water without breaking through, skimming along it or even hopping away from danger. So a research team from Seoul National University and Harvard studied the insect closely to figure out how it does it, according to a Harvard Gazette report.
From their research, they were able to create a robotic insect that mimics the capabilities of the water strider. It was the jumping capability that was the hardest to master: when the robot pushes its legs off the water, usually the movement breaks through the surface tension of the water and no leverage is achieved at all.
Their research was published in the journal Science, and they have found that water striders use a unique method of moving their legs and bodies that allowed scientists to crack the code. The water strider has slightly curved tips on its legs, and its leg movements is rotational, enabling a water leap that doesn’t break surface tension. The research team studied lots of water striders and videotaped their movements in order to understand the mechanics.
What are the practical uses of such a robot? Perhaps they could be turned into tiny spy drones, or perhaps the mechanics of that were unveiled in the research could go into the design of watercraft, or perhaps it’s just a good opportunity to learn how our world works.