Water striders are a marvel of nature.
These small creatures use both the surface tension of water as well as their own water-repelling legs to to jump up and down on water as if it were as solid and springy as a trampoline.
Well, now there’s a robot that can do the same.
This microrobot was developed by Qinmin Pan and colleagues at Harbin Institute of Technology in China. In their paper, published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, they described other tiny robots that can walk on water (including a design that Pan created last year).
But, they pointed out, robots that walk on water don’t really mimic the behavior of water striders, which actually jump up and down on water.
Their new microrobot does just that, overcoming what until now has been a major challenge: keeping the legs of the bot from breaking through the water’s surface as it leaps up.
In tests, the robot could leap 5.5 inches into the air and almost 14 inches forward (a distance more than twice its own length) at a speed of 3.6 miles per hour.
Pan accomplished this feat by using porous, extra water-repellant nickel foam for the legs.
Before you think that this is just a nifty side project for a mad scientist, such robotic water striders could be used to monitor lake water quality or in espionage. And, robots that have the ability to jump on water are going to be able to avoid obstacles they encounter, making them even better at their jobs.
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top photo: TimVickers/Wikimedia Commons; lower photo: American Chemical Society