New Nautical Device Takes Design Cues From Clams

on December 13, 2008

Discovery: “‘RoboClam’ Anchor Holds Ships Steady” An incredible new nautical device takes design cues from the humble Ensis directus clam.

When we say incredible, we mean it: the new device is a pencil-sized anchor that burrows into the seabed and may be able to anchor everything from small sea craft to huge oil platforms, Discovery reports.

RoboClam isn’t the first anchor that uses vibration to help dig into the seabed, but it is far more efficient than both other vibration-based anchors and traditional anchors.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Anette Hosoi was one of a team who designed the new anchor, dubbed “RoboClam,” that digs into the seabed much like Ensis directus. By vibrating, RoboClam alters the consistency of the seabed so that it is easier to dig into; next, the two “shells” of RoboClam expand, locking the anchor, while a “worm-like foot” pushes farther in. Finally, the shells contract and the foot draws the entire anchor deeper.

Just how powerful is RoboClam? As of now, it can exert about 80 lbs (36 kg) of downward force, which allows it to dig about 15 inches (38 cm) deep. For comparison, Ensis directus can reach 28 inches (71 cm) deep or deeper—even though it uses 36 times less force than the RoboClam.

RoboClam isn’t the first anchor that uses vibration to help dig into the seabed, but it is far more efficient than both other vibration-based anchors and traditional anchors. It is also able to “dig” itself out of the seabed.

The University of Maryland’s Wolfgang Lohsert, who is testing RoboClam, believes it may one day serve as more than an anchor. “If you can dig more directly into sandy soil and also control the direction of the digging, there are a number of applications, including exploration of natural resources,” Lohsert said.

The RoboClam is yet another amazing design chalked up to human engineers copying God’s ingenuity!

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